The Scripture that I want us to look at is Hebrews 10. All the way through this letter the spotlight is upon Jesus Christ, the Superior One. He has opened for us a new and living way to the Father. We don't have to go through a system of works. We don't have to go through some other person who will represent our cause. We don't have to earn our way into the presence of God and hope that He will lend an ear and hear our requests. No, not that. Finally, the climax:
Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God. (vv. 19-21)
His point is this: Since we have confidence to enter the Lord's presence and since we have Christ as our "great priest," let us execute the following three commands, each of which is introduced by "Let us..."
Let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (v. 22)
This is symbolic language. It means: Let us come into the presence of our God clean and pure. Let's have no lingering sin hanging heavily over us like an anchor as we attempt to storm the throne with our needs. Let us draw near!
The next command:
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. (v. 23)
The second command is a strong one, written before the ink is dry on the first. "Let us draw near." Amen! "Let us hold fast." Amen! But also:
And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds. (v. 24)
Did you ever know that was in the Bible? Let us give attention on how we might stimulate our brothers and sisters in the family of God. It isn't just a suggestion, an off-the-cuff, casual ideal like, "Oh, by the way, it might look good, while you're holding fast to the faith, to toss in a little encouragement."
But he's not through with the thought.
Not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. (v. 25)
It is impossible to stimulate someone else to love and good deeds if we are not around them. Encouragement is a face-to-face thing. So, in effect, he says:
And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. (v. 25 NLT)
I see a couple of thoughts woven through these lines.
1. Encouragement is not the responsibility of a gifted few, but the responsibility of the family of God. Obviously, the official role of a pastor is the responsibility of a few. And the role of an elder or deacon is another responsibility for a few. Maybe an officer or a teacher is the responsibility of a few people in a church. But I don't find this passage addressed to any specific, gifted individual, rather to all in the family. That means you.
2. Encouragement is not something that is needed less in the body, but more. You'll notice that the writer refers to this being needed "all the more as you see the day [of Christ's return] drawing near." Do you know why? "In the last days perilous times shall come" (2 Timothy 3:1 KJV).
Interesting word that Paul uses, translated "perilous" in the King James Version. "Troublesome" is the paraphrase that some will use. It is also like our English term savage. "In the last days, savage times will come." These are the days in which we live.
Now why do I emphasize that? Because that's the reason we need encouragement all the more. When we walk out of the loving fellowship of God's family, we move into "savage territory." In that realm we can be easily intimidated. In light of that fact, God's people need to turn on the encouragement! The family of God is not a place for verbal putdowns, sarcastic jabs, critical comment, and harsh judgments. We get enough of that from the world. This is a place we need to assemble for the purpose of being encouraged...and we are free to be ourselves.
Adapted from Charles R. Swindoll, "The Biblical Basis for Encouragement," Insights (May 1998): 1. Copyright © 1998 by Insight for Living. All rights reserved worldwide.