Gospel Shepherding – Hebrews 10:23-25

Good morning church! As a church we’ve been going through a series called “Gospel Renewal” and covered various topics like prayer, humility, repentance, dependence, satisfaction, obedience and stewardship and the overall theme was that the good news of God’s love for us in Christ is not just the secret but the power enabling us to do all of these things.

Today’s theme is the last one in this series titled “Gospel Shepherding”. Let’s turn to our main text for today from Hebrews 10:23-25.

23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and ball the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Cricket fever is high in the country right now due to the World Cup. I’m sure many of us have been following the India matches. During one of the matches this week – there was a time where MS Dhoni was batting alongside Rishabh Pant.

Right there you saw two generations of wicket-keepers batting together. One of the commentators at the points said something like “The experienced veteran MS Dhoni shepherding the young, dynamic, enthusiastic Rishabh Pant”.

And I thought that was a good way to describe shepherding – encouraging, guiding and helping someone else in their growth. I thought if the secular world understands the need of shepherding someone, how much more is the need for us as believers! After all we know how it’s not just the church leaders that are called to shepherd people but it’s each and everyone no matter what stage you are in your Christian life.

Husbands are called to shepherd their wives. Parents are called to shepherd their children. Church members are called to shepherd each other – shape and influence each other in a way that they are pointed toward Christ. But the question is how? How can I shepherd the people in my life?

Two points:

1.Shepherding requires the gospel

Shepherding needs us to know, believe and live out the gospel. I’m sure most of you were like “Duh. This is like an anti-climax.  Off course I knew that. What’s new about it?” Before I answer that let’s see where it’s mentioned in this passage.

V23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

When I think about “Holding fast”, I imagine the picture of a child holding the hands of the parent tightly. And what do we need to hold fast to? The confession of our hope. What is that? The gospel! By gospel I mean what God has done for us through Jesus.

Now some of us might think “Okay, I believed in the gospel many years back, but why do you say that I cannot shepherd the people in my life without that? Why do I have a need of the gospel today?” That’s a great question. And that’s why I want us to look at this chart on the 3 dimensions of the gospel.  When we look at the Bible we see that the gospel is described in 3 dimensions.

  • Past: When I believed I was made right with God through Jesus.
    • When I put my trust in Jesus, God fully forgave me of all my sins and received me as His own child.
  • Present: Every day I am being made more like Jesus
    • As the Spirit works in my heart through the Bible, and as I yield myself to what He shows me, I am being changed and renewed into Jesus more and more each day.
  • Future: When Jesus returns, I will perfectly reflect Him
    • On the Day of Judgement, I will not be ashamed. I’ll be given a new body like Jesus’ body – free from corruption and separated from the presence of sin. And I’ll be invited to share in His inheritance.

You can see here how there are 3 dimensions to it. The problem is sometimes in our hearts and beliefs, we end up only focusing on one of these dimensions. And that has a few dangers that I want us to be aware of.

Past: If we only focus on the Past dimension of the gospel – where I was made right with God in the past, it can lead us to become prideful and licentious. We’ll think that “Jesus died for my sins so there’s no need for me to work out my salvation. Jesus already died for my sins so now I can live any way I want with no responsibility” forgetting the present and the future dimensions.

Present: If we only focus on the Present dimension of the gospel – where we are made more and more like Jesus each day, it can sometimes lead us into despair. As the Spirit makes us more aware of our sin, we’ll think that “Oh I am so not like Jesus. I’m the opposite because my thoughts and my actions don’t match up to Jesus’ life.

God can’t accept someone like me who keeps failing in my performance” forgetting the past dimension of what Christ did on the cross.

Future: If we only focus on the Future dimension of the gospel – where Christ comes back again those who trust Him as Lord will be like Him, it can lead us to becoming lazy and not steward our time, talents and resources well.

There have been people in history who have left their jobs and left their responsibility of family thinking “Jesus is going to come back soon so why waste time in working a job and taking care of a family. Let me just wait on the coming of the Lord” forgetting the present dimensions of the gospel by daily stewarding what God has given us to glory of God.

When we believed in the gospel and surrendered our lives to Jesus, we did that to all the 3 dimensions. We don’t get to pick and chose one of them. We need all the 3 dimensions of the gospel to live out our Christ walk! That’s why the writer of Hebrews say “Let’s hold fast to it – without wavering”. “Firmly hold on to it. Don’t let go”.

But if we all are honest; we’ll admit that our faith does waver. We don’t always hold fast to the gospel. Like a little child, it feels like we are losing grip from the hands of our Father. But here’s the awesome truth at the end of v23 “for He who promised is faithful”. The wonderful hope for us is that God is holding on to us! He is keeping us. And He reveals His faithfulness through His blood bought promises!

If you’re here today, struggling to believe in the past dimension of the gospel – “When you think…can God actually forgive all my sins? Can He actually wipe my slate clean after all the horrible things I’ve done?” Here’s what Romans 8:1 says There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

I remember my 9th standard Sunday school teacher telling me – God in His holiness can’t even look at us because of our filth and sin. But for those who surrender themselves to Jesus, when looks at us He sees His Son. Wow. Even though I was an unbeliever at that time it blew my mind.

If you’re here today, struggling to believe in the present dimension of the gospel – “I know I’ve trusted in Christ, but I feel like I’m losing the battle to sin each day”. Here’s what 1 John 4:4 says “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”

God has placed His own Spirit within us. He has written His law on our hearts and our minds so that we can be empowered to live in obedience to God as we yield to the Spirit.

God has placed His own Spirit within us. He has written His law on our hearts and our minds so that we can be empowered to live in obedience to God as we yield to the Spirit.

If you’re here today, struggling to believe in the future dimension of the gospel – “Will God really remove every iota of sin and make me like His Son when Jesus comes back?” Then here’s what Jesus says. “I told you that I would sacrifice my life and die for your sins – and I did that.

I told you that I would rise from the dead and give you a new life – I did that. I told you that I would change you from the inside out and you can see how I’ve brought you so far from the day you believed. In the same way I’m telling you “I who began a good work in you will bring it to completion”. That’s my promise. I’m putting my word on the line. In doing so I’m putting my character on the line to show you that I am faithful to every thing that I promised I will do.” 

That is the wonderful hope that we need! We need all the 3 dimensions! And it’s the joy that this gospel produces which wells up in our hearts making us want to shepherd other people. Not only does Shepherding require the gospel but:

2. Shepherding involves intentionality and consistency

Intentionality: 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works

There is a “considering and some thought process” that goes behind shepherding. It’s not random. You’re taking some time to think about the people in your lives.

You’re taking time out to think about their needs. You’re thinking about areas in their lives where they are failing to believe in the gospel. And then you’re praying and asking God to enable you to love and serve them.

I’m into client-servicing and my part of my job involves scheduling calls or face to face meetings with my clients. I’ve had a few occasions where I’ve gotten on calls with little or no agenda or plan on what to speak and those calls end up being fruitless.

On the other hand there have been times when I’ve had a clear agenda and I’ve even thought through what I want to speak to them and those calls/meetings end up being meaningful. The client appreciates the help that he received at the end of the day. So if in the business world – intentionality is useful and important, how much more importance needs to be given to thoughtful consideration to encourage a brother or sister in Christ?

I understand that some of us are wired differently in terms of our personality (organized vs unorganized) but I think this passage is still urging us to put thought into our meetings with each other. Taking time out & putting some thought communicates that you care about people.

Let’s pause for a moment and ask ourselves a question – when was the last time we took out time before a Sunday service or a gospel community thinking about a church member and considering how could we encourage that brother or sister in the Lord?

When was the last time you took time out to think how you could encourage your spouse or family member in the Lord? Thinking through what would it look like for us to help meet a need? How can we stir each other up to love and obey God?

Shepherding involves intentionality but it also involves:

Consistency: 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and ball the more as you see the Day drawing near.

There is a consistency to this intentionality as well. As elders one of the questions we get asked is “Why should I be committed to a local church?” And usually we try to answer it is by pointing people back to Scriptures like this telling them it’s actually a command from God. And let’s understand God’s heart behind this command.

God’s desire is not to take attendance of His sheep. He’s not a rule-book keeper. His heart is v25 “encouragement”. He wants us to be encouraged in our faith and walk with Christ. He knows that His sheep forget the gospel, they forget the 3 dimensions, he knows that they struggle with sin and suffering, He knows that they are torn by the brokenness of the world and so He wants them to be encouraged more and more.

He wants us to encouraged on a personal level where we are encouraged by other believers and He wants us to intentionally encourage others with our words, gifting and service. There was a season in my own life between the time at my first church and the Gathering – for about a year when I was inconsistent and not committed to a local church.

I kept thinking “If we plant a church, then from that day onwards I will be very committed”. Not only was I disobedient to God’s call of being committed but I also missed out on the encouragement that my heart needed and that I needed to offer other believers.  

So I’m sharing this from a place where God had to teach me this truth – that Christian growth happens in consistency. Consistency of meeting up and learning from and encouraging other believers. Sometimes we think meeting once a month with other believers or once a quarter is enough for us – that’s not how God designed us to grow.

We can only grow with other believers as we interact with them consistently. It’s true that no church is perfect because we’re all sinners needing God’s grace. But it’s a total joy to see how God in the midst of this brokenness actually is restoring and repairing people like us through the church.

And we miss out on experiencing the beauty of this when we aren’t being intentional and consistent.

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