How do we as Christians bring about a positive provocation? And what should be the result of a positive provocation?
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Well happy Sabbath to all of you, it's good to see you here on this Sabbath day and it's a pleasure to be able to join you and enjoy this day together. I've never attended church services here at the Home Office so it's nice to be here with you this morning and it's been my pleasure to participate in the Pastoral Training Classes and that's been quite a pleasure because of the reminders that you get about things you should be doing and could be doing and the learning and the camaraderie we have in the classes, so it's been a great pleasure to be a part of that program and I appreciate the opportunity. In the challenges, part of the classes have focused on how we should be speaking, so I've got several ministers out there that have been through surgical sermons and other subjects so I know they're going to be taking copious notes and reviewing how well I do today! Plus I get to have my annual review tonight and so Mr. Welty is getting charged up here to help me improve this evening, so looking forward to that! It's been so busy in my life recently, Mr. Welty and I have been doing correspondence and we could never fix a date and so I finally said let's quit doing this and I just called and said let's set up a time and this was the time that would work out for us together — this evening.
It's interesting Mr. Fouch spoke about comfort and I think you'll see there is a tie-in with what I'm going to speak on today and it is interesting how that does work out.
More than 20 years ago I was directing a Spokesmen Club meeting and there was a young man giving an instruct speech. This man was an intense individual, he was intense about a lot of different things and so as he's giving this speech, he's deadly serious. What he is giving us is of the utmost importance, we need to hear this instruction. So he starts his intro out and he talks about the fact that he was a young man and he was walking by a junkyard and as junkyards usually have, there was a vicious dog on the other side of the fence. So being a foolish young man, he decided to provoke the dog, so he's there pounding on the fence and the dog's jumping against the fence and just barking madly and he egged the dog on for quite a while. He was definitely provoking that dog. So he got tired of that and he moseyed on down the alley way and all of a sudden he heard the fence shaking and he looked back and he saw the dog was pulling itself up over the fence and hitting the ground and charging in his direction. So we all thought, well that's interesting, what's he going to teach us, what's he going to instruct us in? And his instruction was how you deal with a dog attack. We all thought, you could have avoided this by not provoking the dog, that's how I would have done it, but that would have been a short message and he was in the predicament so he wanted to share with us what options we had should we have a dog attack.
So the first option he gave us was — here comes this vicious dog charging at you and what he said is, just take your left arm and ram it into that dog's mouth! And then once you get your left arm into the dog's mouth, you take your right arm and put it behind it's neck and push that dog's neck back until it breaks! Now we all sat there and we thought, I just wouldn't have provoked the dog! We're all — and I as the director and all the club members, we're just looking at each other, thinking, ok, I don't want to ever do this but ok, we could do that. But we're all kind of smiling at each other at this point and you have to realize, this guy is deadly serious, he's not joking around, this is something we need to listen to and take to heart. So anyway, he gives us his second option — which is, if you don't want to go with the left arm into the dog's mouth, then what you do is you ram your fist down the dog's throat. Now we all thought, the first option was going to be difficult but I'm going to ram my fist down a vicious dog's throat? And so we all looked at each other again and we all had been smiling before. At this point, with the ramming the fist down the dog's throat, we all looked at each other and then we all just burst out laughing! This was not the intended outcome of that speech! We're all laughing hilariously at what he was presenting. So if you're ever speaking seriously and your audience begins to laugh at you, it may throw you off a bit. He finally got it back together and finished the speech. Needless to say, he was a little bit upset and did not get the outcome that he wanted from all of us.
My purpose here this morning is not to focus on dog attacks or laughter, but the word provoke. I want to focus on the word provoke. Now as you think about to provoke someone, probably all of us see provoking someone as a negative thing. Who do we want to provoke? When we provoke people we usually upset them, we make them mad, we make them angry. But in the sermon today I want to show you that there is such a thing as positive provocation. The question is, how do we as Christians bring about a positive provocation? And what should be the result of a positive provocation?
So let's examine how we can positively provoke one another as members of the body of Christ. Now I could give you, there's a Greek word that is fundamental to this and I'll quote the word which is paroxusmos and paroxusmos is related to an English word called paroxysm. Now probably all of you use that particular word on a daily basis — I've never used it and other than this sermon, I probably won't use it again! But as I was looking at this subject I came across that word and it's only used two times in the New Testament. I could give you a definition of that but sometimes it's good to look at the scriptures and let the scriptures help to define the word for us more fully. So let's look at the first example of where this word is used and that's found in Acts 15. As you'll see here we're going to see a negative provocation in this particular situation between Paul and Barnabas. Let's begin in Acts:15:36And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the LORD, and see how they do..
Acts:15:36And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the LORD, and see how they do. — Then after some days Paul said to Barnabas, "Let us now go back and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they're doing."
So could you have a more positive purpose than that, to go back to those places where you've been, where congregations have been raised up and visit with the brethren and make sure they're doing well and answer their questions and help them along in the faith. So it's a very positive desire that Paul and Barnabas have. Then we go on:
V. 37 — Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark.
So Barnabas wanted to take John Mark with them again on the journey and he was determined to take John Mark. Then we come to Paul's desire in this matter:
V. 38 — But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work.
Hey, you want to take John Mark and John Mark abandoned us in Pamphylia, he left us, he got on a ship and went back home and we're going to take somebody who is unreliable with us? And so Paul didn't want to take John Mark with them and Barnabas was determined to do so. So here we have two men who have a very positive purpose to accomplish but they're looking at accomplishing that from two different perspectives. So what happened as a result of their differing views? It says in verse 39:
V. 39 — Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. The word that is paroxusmos is the word contention.
So what we find here is that in this case we find that paroxysm that is taking place here, the contention to be the provoking or the stirring up of anger, of sharp contention, of angry dispute between Paul and Barnabas. The provocation caused the contention between Paul and Barnabas to be so intense that they couldn't work together at that point and so they went their separate ways. God's Work was still done but they couldn't do it together. And I'm sure that in time this was all resolved but at that point they needed to go their separate ways and God's purpose was still worked out.
So what we see here is that as Christians we can provoke anger, we can provoke sharp contention, we can provoke angry dispute even though our ultimate goal may be positive and as we consider our part in the Church, do we ever provoke sharp contention? Do we ever provoke sharp dispute? We can do it and you know we all have human nature and human nature makes that easy, doesn't it? It makes it very easy for us to provoke such outcomes. So we see this situation that takes place here with this provocation, it's a negative one and it's not the outcome that we want.
Now let's think about things in a more positive way by going to Hebrews 10 and we'll look at the second example of where this word is used. Now prior to chapter 10 Paul has gone through a whole bunch of different things to try to encourage a group of people that are having a difficult time in the faith. As you look at the book of Hebrews, the people that he's addressing are struggling in the faith, they're having difficulties, they're uncertain, they're unsure, they're not growing as they should, they're having problems as God's people and what he does in the first ten chapters there, he seeks to reassure them, he seeks to encourage them, he seeks to admonish them and he talks about all the positive things they have going for them. He talks about the great purpose that they're involved in as God seeks to bring many sons to glory and as you think about the first ten chapters there, he's done a lot to pave the way for that. So that brings us to Hebrews:10:19Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,. Here Paul says:
Heb:10:19Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, — Therefore...you know and as you think about it, all of the things that have gone before lay the groundwork for what he's going to say now — therefore with all these encouragements and admonitions and all these promises and positive things we've looked at, let's think about some things....Therefore brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus.
What greater thing could you have going for you than the fact that you are no longer cut off from the throne of God? Those cherubim that guarded the way to the Tree of Life, they aren't there anymore, they've been removed and that veil that separated you from the throne of God has been removed and you can go to that very throne and you can have a relationship with God. And the way has been opened for us through the blood of Jesus Christ.
V. 20 — By a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh.
It is a new and living way because it wasn't opened generally to people before but the way has been opened now and you can go to God's throne and not only can you go directly to God's throne, but it says:
V. 21 — And having a High Priest over the house of God.
We, as God's people, as God's Church, we have an Advocate in Jesus Christ, we can go to God's very throne and we have Jesus Christ at His right hand as our Advocate and as we go to God and we talk about the things going on in our lives, the problems, the challenges, the hopes that we have as God's people, Jesus Christ is right there, this Being who has come to the earth and has experienced human life, this Being who cares enough about each and every one of us that He laid down His life in order to open up the way for you and me to enter the throne room of God. So as you think about that, God's on our side, Jesus Christ is on our side and we can go to Him whenever we need to go because it says:
V. 22 — Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
So we can go to God's throne having full assurance that our sins have been forgiven, they've been removed and we are no longer at enmity with God, we can have full assurance to boldly go before God's throne, to draw near to Him. God has cleansed us, God has removed the guilt that we may have had because of our sinful past and the thing is, it is the past and we can move forward and as we move forward we know that God is with us and we know that anytime that we need to go before the throne of God, the way is open, the way is open and Jesus Christ is there to advocate on our behalf.
So basically he's telling us brethren, that we have everything going for us. As it says elsewhere, if God is for us, who can be against us? And so with these good things going for us, should there be an outcome? Should there be an outcome? Do we just have access to God's throne, have we just been forgiven and there's nothing more that is expected, nothing else that should be going on in our lives? Well he tells us:
V. 23 — Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering...
And the thing is that God gives us great hope, we have hope because we know the promises that God has given to us are eventually going to come to pass and they give us hope, they give us purpose, they give us direction, they give us motivation don't they? So he says:
V. 23 — Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering...
And the people that the writer of Hebrews was addressing were wavering, they were wavering, they weren't sure and to a certain degree they were discouraged and so we should not waver, we should hold fast to those things that God has promised us because He who promised is faithful. He's going to be with us, He's going to strengthen us, He's going to make sure that we are brought to glory — that's God's purpose, the purpose that God laid out way back before everything began. God has called us and He's giving us the opportunity to grow and to mature and be ready for the kingdom of God. So He who promised is faithful, He is going to do everything that He said He would do and He's going to be with us every step of the way.
So what's the outcome that God wants from you and me? Well, the writer of the book begins to explain that in Hebrews:10:24And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: and he begins by saying:
Heb:10:24And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: — And let us consider one another...
You know as you think about the world in which we live and some of you have a few years on you and you probably remember back to a time when people were more respectful, when people were more considerate and we live in an age that is inconsiderate, we live in an age where hey, you're on your own, I'm not opening the door for you, I'm not helping you carry this, you're on your own. And everybody thinks about themselves and we are less considerate of one another. But God is telling you and me that we're to live differently. He says, let us consider one another. Let us think about one another, it's a most important thing that we consider one another as members of the body of Christ. Following the example of God and His Son, we are told that we are not to live a selfish life, just focused on ourselves and frankly how easy is it to just focus on yourself, just to worry about yourself? And sometimes you know, as you think about that, it is a hassle to consider others, it is a hassle, I don't want to do that, I don't want to go out of my way to help you, I don't want to consider your needs, I'm just worried about myself. But God tells us, that's not how we're to live, we are not to be oblivious to our fellow Christians, we are to consider them.
Let's go to Philippians 2 where it expresses that idea in a most beautiful way. Phil:2:3-4 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.  Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. .
Phil:2:3Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. — Let nothing...let nothing...be done through selfish ambition or conceit...so we are not to do anything with just our own selfishness in mind...but in lowliness of mind, let each esteem others better than himself.
We are to think of other people, we are to esteem others better than ourselves. How many times have you come to church in your years that you've been a part of the body of Christ and you've gone up to people and asked them how they're doing? You've asked them how they're doing and then, you put your coin in the slot and they're rolling, they're telling you how they're doing and that's a good thing. But how many times have you listened to other people and asked them how they're doing and they don't ask you anything? How often has that happened, they don't really seem to care about you and you can begin to say, well you know what, nobody ever asks about me so I'm not going to do this anymore.
But we have to see beyond that, that we're learning to be like God, and we're to esteem others better than ourselves and we are to inquire how others are doing, we're to care about them, to think about them. It talks about lowliness of mind and it's very easy for us to begin to think of ourselves and how I fit in and how people think about me and God said, you know what? You're not the focus; you are to learn to focus on others, which is a hard thing for us to do humanly speaking. He says:
V. 4 — Let each of you look out not only for his own interests...
So it's not that we neglect ourselves or we don't care about ourselves or we're not concerned about ourselves, but we are to be concerned about the interests of others, to think about them and their needs and their feelings and their wants and their desires. The idea is that much might be done to help fellow Christians by taking them into consideration. Much can be done.
So how do we consider others? Let's think of a few points that are made in the scriptures and I'm just going to quote, tell you the scripture and then give you the gist of the scripture. In Proverbs:29:7The righteous considereth the cause of the poor: but the wicked regardeth not to know it. it says:
Prov:29:7The righteous considereth the cause of the poor: but the wicked regardeth not to know it. — The righteous considers the cause of the poor.
Because as you think about the poor from the biblical perspective, the poor have no power, they have nothing to offer, they have nothing to pay you back with. But the righteous considers their cause. Not because they're better but because they have need. The righteous looks at their need and sees how he can help them. An example of this is in Acts:11:29Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea: where the disciples in Antioch heard that a famine was coming and they heard that the people in Judea were suffering and so the idea was put forward, well hey, let's take up a collection for the brethren, let's send relief to them, which they did. And this commonly goes on in the Churches, a need - we're made aware of a need, many people step up and say, you know what, there is a need and I'm willing to help out, I'm willing to give, I'm willing to help the cause of the poor. Another example is found in Romans:12:15Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. where it says:
Romans:12:15Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. - Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.
Now this tells us that you've got to know the brethren, you have to know the people among whom you congregate because how would you know if anybody's weeping, how would you know whether anybody's rejoicing? I remember, I worked for a fellow one summer and it was a diesel shop and one of the jobs that I had to do was to steam clean a motor or some part that went on a diesel truck. Being the great mechanic that I am, I don't remember what it was but I do remember getting all the grease off of it and steam cleaning it so it's very hot. Well I picked it up before it had cooled off and so I dropped it very quickly and I said, Boy, that burned! And he said, well it doesn't hurt me! I thought, OK, obviously it doesn't, so he wasn't really understanding this scripture! When other people hurt, you hurt and the point is, we want to know the brethren in the Church because there are times when we weep and we're hurting and it's nice to know that other people care and they're concerned and that they're weeping with us. He also tells us that when people rejoice, when something good happens to them, they graduate; they finish college, that some accomplishment has been reached, that we stop and say, Hey, way to go, nice job! Could be just giving a sermonette, a new song leader, somebody that's baptized, what more wonderful occasion can that be than to have somebody baptized in the Church? And we rejoice with them, just as God the Father and the angels are rejoicing in heaven — welcome to the family! But a way that we consider each other is we rejoice with one another because we are all in this together, we are the nation of God, we are God's people and we are all moving in the same direction toward the kingdom of God and we want everybody to keep up, we want everybody to move along in that direction.
Let's look at Romans:15:1We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. — we see another way in which we are to consider one another.
Romans:15:1We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. — We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves.
There are people who are in the Church of God who are weak, they have challenges, they have problems, they may not understand everything that we understand, they're moving along in the faith but they're not as advanced as we are, so how should we treat them? Now we may understand that their particular point of view is something that maybe we had at an earlier date but we've come to understand more fully God's way of life. They're new in the faith possibly so he tells us that we are to bear the scruples of the weak, to be forbearing with them, to be patient with them and not to please ourselves. He says:
V. 2 — Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification.
We have to think about other people and think about how we can build them up, how we can build them up. Maybe you have somebody that has an alcohol problem, well you don't have an alcohol problem, so if they come to your house, that's not the time to have the cooler of beer out there, it's the time to have drinks that are appropriate for somebody who has that problem, why tempt them? You can say, well they're weak in the faith and we need to test them, we need to make sure they can handle it. But maybe they can't. You see, you have to say, I don't need this because I don't want to hurt my brother, I don't want to do anything that would tear them down, I only want to do those things that will build them up.
V. 3 — For even Christ did not please Himself; as it is written, "The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me."
Christ is the most obvious example of not living to please Himself. Paul exemplified this in I Cor. 9:22-23. He says:
I Cor. 9:22 — To the weak I became as weak that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.
Paul had the end in mind and that was that all — everybody that he came into contact with, would reap salvation. That was his goal, his purpose and he thought about, he considered the brethren with that purpose in mind, he said I want these people to reap salvation and so the way that I approach them, I want to be one who is going to help them along. If they're weak then I'm not going to push certain things or emphasis certain things, I want them to progress and as they mature then we can move on to those things. But I will be weak to those who are weak — still living within the bounds of God's law because his goal was that they would reap salvation.
So we see that there are various ways in which we can consider one another and the bible is full of examples of people who tried to work to please others beyond themselves. Let's look at one final scripture in I Corinthians 10 in this regard, beginning in verse 33. Paul here says:
I Cor. 10:33 — Just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved. Again, salvation is in mind and he goes on to say:
I Cor. 11:1 — Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.
The approach he used was the approach that Christ had. Christ laid down His life for all of us and Paul has learned from Him that that is the way he is to live, to sacrifice for others and consider their needs. So he doesn't do just what was best for him, he didn't do what was in his own interest only, he did what was best for others so that they may be saved.
Now we are, as God's people, are to live in consideration of others and the question we have to ask ourselves is, do we, as we go through our lives, stop and consider the brethren? Do we consider them, is that how we live; is that something that's on our mind constantly? Do we consider the brethren?
Now what's the outcome of considering one another? Let's go back to Hebrews 10. What's the outcome of considering others? There is a very positive outcome which is spoken of in Hebrews:10:24And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:, going on in that verse.
Heb:10:24And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: — So let us consider one another...why...in order to stir up love and good works.
In order to stir up love and good works, or as the King James Version, the Old King James Version says, to provoke to love and good works.
God's people are to consider one another for that very purpose for creating a paroxysm, "an outburst; they are to stir up, to provoke, to incite, to stimulate love and good works." It is to stir up, to provoke, to incite, to stimulate love and good works. The Greek word paroxuamos means "encouragement, a provocation, an exciting, an arousing to some action or feeling." And as part of the church, Paul tells us, it's critical to stir up or provoke love and good works. To stir up love and good works is a most positive provocation. It is a provoking, it isn't provoking to anger or contention, it isn't to stir things up in a negative way, but it is to stir people up in order that they would begin to show love and good works in the church. It has been said in regard to love, that love can be known only from the actions it prompts. Do you have love? It should be noted from the actions it prompts. If you love the brethren, it should manifest itself in the actions that take place. Let's go to I John 4, the apostle John speaks much about love, much that we can learn from him in that regard and he speaks about this subject in I John:4:9Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.. He says:
I John:4:9Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. — In this the love of God was manifested toward us...you see if you think about it, why would God regard you and me, the very question that is asked in Hebrews 2? Why do you regard us God? What do we have to offer? You are God, You are the center of the universe, none of us are! Why regard us? But God does, He says...in this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world that we might live through Him.
You see God considered humanity; He created man in His image and He made provision to save him, through Jesus Christ. That all comes about because He considered us, He sets us the example of considering others. He considered us and He as the Father gave His Son as a sacrifice. God the Father was the offerer and Jesus Christ was like Isaac in the sense that OK, You're going to sacrifice Me, I'm willing to do it and He willingly came to lay down His life for us, both the Father and Son considered us in order that we might live through the sacrifice of Christ.
V. 10 — In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. To be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.
V. 11 — Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
God sets the example of provoking us to love and good works. He sets us the perfect example that we are to look at and emulate in the way that He sacrificed Himself for us and continues to work on our behalf. Now let's go to look at some scriptures that talk about love, let's go to Romans 13. The word love there is the word for godly love — agape.
Rom:13:8Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. — Owe no one anything except to love one another. For he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, "You shall not commit adultery," "You shall not murder," "You shall not steal," "You shall not bear false witness," "You shall not covet," and if there is any other commandment are all summed up in this saying, namely, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
You have to consider your neighbor in order to express outgoing concern. You have to think about their need before you can express outgoing concern and it is an important thing that we do. It is interesting that as you consider other people, I know from my experience one of the challenges that you face sometimes as you travel around in the churches, you go into a church and nobody greets you, nobody says hi, nobody says bye. You kind of wonder, am I invisible here? And I can't explain that but that's how it happens sometimes, but you know if someone were to come up and say hi, I'm so and so, I'm Gary Smith, welcome to our church, I've never seen you here before, you're most welcome, where are you from? How does that person feel? Now you may say, it's not my job to go up there and welcome anybody, it's not my job to say hi, but isn't it the application of the principle we see here of loving your neighbor? You don't know him; you've never seen him before but you know as that person has you come up and greet him and say, hi, how are you doing, welcome to our church — how is he going to walk away? It's going to be a positive thing isn't it? Wow, that was a friendly church, these are God's people, they do care about me in that small way of just saying hi. And if you really want to shoot the moon you can say, hey, do you have anything going after church? How about going to lunch? Now that's when you're really stepping up and some of you do do that and that's a wonderful thing because people remark on the fact that people invited them out and cared for them and befriended them even for a short-term relationship. So it says:
V. 10 — Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
And you see, it's much easier as you come to church, to talk to your friends, nothing wrong with that, but it is harder to go up and talk to someone that you don't know. And not everybody that you go up and talk to that's visiting is easy to talk to, sometimes it's a tough couple of minutes. "How's it going"" "O.K." "Where are you from?" They don't say much and you're like, "Nice visiting with you and I've got to move on" but there are those uneasy moments when they don't make it easy for you. But the thing is, it's still important that we do it, so as you see somebody new and different, go say hi. The benefits are great and you know what, that's where the love and the provoking each other, this is a positive provocation because as you go talk to that stranger, you don't think that's going to impact them? And when they're in their own church that they're not going to think about, you know what, someone came up and talked to me, maybe I should go over there and talk to them.
I know that my daughter attended church when she was going to college and she said that there were many people that went to college that nobody really took the time to do much for, they were just attending and they may just talk to people but nobody really took much of an interest in them. So when she moved to Texas, to Austin, she said I've been there and experienced it, so what she would do is invite the students over for dinner, she made an effort based on her own experience, to invite them over and to consider them. It's something we all can do and as we practice that, the benefits to the church are manifold, it's unbelievable the positive benefits. Paul made note of this in Galatians:6:10As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith., he says:
Gal:6:10As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith. — Therefore, as we have opportunity...do you have an opportunity, if you want them to come, they will come your way...as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.
As we have opportunity — look for the opportunities, consider the brethren and take advantage of those opportunities to serve, to stir up love. Now love is tied in with good works because the outcome of loving God and loving neighbor is good works. Let's go to look at one scripture in Titus 2 where he talks about good works and how important that is to all of us. Verse 13-14 — it talks about Jesus Christ and then it says, speaking of Jesus Christ:
Titus:2:14Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. — Who gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.
Those people that are zealous for that opportunity to be of service and help to other people, those people that are zealous to weep with those who weep, those who are hurting, to encourage, to rejoice with those who are rejoicing, to make note of the needs of others and care for them.
Now as you look at this provocation to love and good works, it's interesting, it's found in Hebrews:10:24And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:, but it's interesting what it says in the next verse, verse 25 and you have to realize that the church, as I said, the church was having difficulties and people were discouraged and part of the discouragement was reflected in that there were people who were no longer assembling themselves with the people of God. Maybe they were sporadic, maybe they had dropped out all together but Paul tells them in Hebrews:10:25Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.:
Heb:10:25Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. — Not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together as is the manner of some...
Now to me it was interesting that the writer of Hebrews would associate the issue of assembling together with the people of God with provoking to love and good works. His point is that love and good works are not just focused on the self, there has to be somebody else there for you to provoke them, now you can try to provoke yourselves and if you can do that you've probably accomplished a major feat, I guess you could do it but most of the time we're provoking somebody else aren't we? There has to be somebody else there with you. What the author has focused on is outgoing concern toward others and if we fail to assemble with other Christians, how is it possible for us to have a relationship with them? How would we know them? How would we know their needs, how could we consider people we don't know? To whom do we express outgoing concern and for whom do we perform good works? Who would we stir up if there was no one else around? So the writer here is tying in with this point is Christ's injunction that if we are the disciples of Christ, then we will love one another, that's what it's all about. And if we love God, we must also love our brother. John makes that point emphatic. You can't say that you love God and hate your brother, if you love God, you will love your brother and you will consider them, that's how you're going to learn to live. And as you think about this and you think about the world tomorrow, isn't that why the world tomorrow is going to work? Because we will, not only consider one another but we will consider all of those who will be a part of God's kingdom. We will consider their needs and that's why the kingdom is going to begin to blossom and that's what we're developing now, that attitude of consideration for others, that willingness to work in a way that provokes others to love and good works.
In the final part of Hebrews:10:25Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. says:
V. 25 — ...and so much the more as you see the day approaching.
You need to consider one another even more and provoke each other to love and good works even more as you see the day approaching. Why take this point? Why come at it from this angle, speaking of the return of Jesus Christ? It's telling us there is an end point, we're all in a race and there is an end point to it. The race ends with the coming of Christ or our death, whichever comes first. Why exhort our brothers and sisters, why do that? He talked about exhorting earlier there, exhorting one another — why do that? Well we want to provoke them in a positive way to love and good works and we want them to finish the race and be ready when the day is finally here. We want to consider them, we want to exhort them, we want them to be growing and maturing and we aren't in this alone. My success should impact other's success, I should impact other people, you should impact me, we impact each other and we help each other through this whole process in being ready for the kingdom.
As a result of God's work in us, we have much going for us because God the Father and His Son intensely desire that we be ready for His kingdom. So as we think about ourselves we might ask ourselves a few questions and think about a few things. We are a spiritual nation, bound together by the holy spirit and what we say and what we do greatly impacts all of those around us. We don't live in a vacuum, what I say, what you say, how you say it, what you do, what you don't do, people are watching, people look at what you do or you don't do, people look at what you say or don't say and it can encourage them, it can provoke them to love and good works or it may tear them down, it may provoke them in a negative way and you have to think of that. We might ask ourselves, is my life centered on considering other members of the congregation? Is that the way I live, I consider the other members of the congregation. Do I consider them in all aspects of my life? At church and away from church? Do I consider them? Do I think of other brethren before words come out of my mouth, do I think about how is this going to register with them, is it going to edify them, is it going to help them, is it going to encourage them, is it going to spur them on in a positive way? Do I think of my fellow Christians before I act? Do I think before I act, thinking, O.K., if I do this, how will it impact them, what will the example be? And as you think about what it says here in Hebrews, the result we want from our action is that it would spur them, it would provoke them in a positive way. We might also consider, are we individuals who inspire other members of God's church, inspiring, provoking, are we provoking love and good works through our consideration of others?
So brethren, I challenge all of you in going forward, I challenge all of you to live a life in which we consider one another in order to provoke and to stir up love and good works.
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