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FORSAKE NOT ASSEMBLING

In Hebrews, chapter 10, verse 25, it says this:

"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."

What does this verse mean to you?

I would like to explore different aspects of assembling, both in this passage and within other concepts in Scripture. I also want to look at the deceptions which have been created concerning each.

The Greek word used is used here and in II Thess. 2:1.

Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together to Him

This is, of course, in the end times, and the verb form appears in the same context in Matt. 24:31.

And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.

In its verb form, we also find it in Matt. 23:37:

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under he wings, and you were unwilling.

The easiest meaning is simply a grouping of Christians at a time and a place, for a purpose. Today, this generally means at a church, on Sunday morning, Sunday evening, Wednesday evening, etc, for the purpose of Bible study, worship service, Sunday School, etc.

The deception that has crept in is that by doing this, you are being a Christian, and by not doing this you are sinning against God and the church as an entity.

The deception is birthed in the command to "forsake not". The deception is enlarged by our creation of physical structures to meet in and in corporate structures to manage and operate the meetings. And is it hammered home by improperly contexting the verse with that which immediately follows -- verses 26-31.

For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain terrifying expectation of judgment, and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries."

Thus it is intimated that: "if you don't show up at this place, at all these times, you are not following Christ, you are breaking God's command, and you will suffer holy hell at the hand of our righteous God for your back-sliding".

"Forsaking not" is a command; I accept it as such. But we must seek the purpose of the gathering, and the alternative forms of gathering, for neither the physical nor corporate structure we call the church existed at the time the command was given.

To convert this to nothing more than being at the XYZ Church Sunday morning and Sunday and Wednesday evenings is to do a great disservice to the passage. Bear in mind that a person can practice such command and not be a Christian; nor will routine practice of such command ever make them into a Christian.

If you carefully read all of Hebrews 10, you will see this:

Verses 1-18 may be seen as life under the law. Verses 19 to 25 may be seen in contrast as life in Christ Verse, and contains the "assembling" verse. Verses 26-31 then tell us of the reality of life under law, while verses 32-39 challenge us to continue with life in Christ.

Specifically, verse 25, as a part of verses 23-25, may be seen as the giving the purpose for assembling: to stimulate and encourage one another so that confession of our hope may be maintained without wavering.

A man named Simon Schrock wrote a book (One-Anothering) analyzing the "one anothers" of Scripture as follows:

To Encourage

To Edify

To Be kind and compassionate to wards

To Submit to

To divinely Love

To practice hospitality towards

To Forgive

To Comfort

To Pray for

To Bear burdens of

To Greet

To Consider

To Receive

To Forebear with

To Have compassion towards

To Care for

To Minister to

To Live in harmony with

To Prefer

To Confess our sins to

To Be members of

To Lie not to

To Consume not

To Speak not evil of

To Grudge not against

To admonish

When we gather for the purpose of doing these sorts of things, then the importance of the command "forsake not" can be seen, for we all need these things these from time to time.

But, are these things taking place at our meetings? To what extent do our meetings even allow for, let alone encourage such things to take place?

By focusing on the external pomp and circumstance, our gatherings may quickly become hollow. This may explain why people go from place to place seeking the deeper significance of assembling together.

But a deception can creep in with too much focus on purpose. Our middle son nagged me to read the book, The Purpose Driven Church, so I finally skimmed it. The author is a Pastor in southern California.

While there are many good things in his book, and that church is doing many good things, there is a thread which disturbs me. It is that this "thing" -- whether it be the brick and mortar based organizational structure or the congregation within the structure -- can have a single purpose. That is, that it can be, as an example, a toe in the Body of Christ.

This concept of "purpose for assembling", while it does not have to, can lead to as much of a failure to one-another as our current model, and, like our current model, can also lead to a total failure to take into account yet another aspect of assembling.

That additional aspect of assembling is related to the fact that I know that as a Christian I have been grafted into the body of Christ; I have and am being assembled into His body. For those of you familiar with Star Trek, you might think in terms of the Borg -- a combination of life and artificial life form, in which each individual is designed and programmed for a purpose of the whole, and controlled by one head. Our head is Christ and it is Him that we serve daily as directed by the Holy Spirit. IN that way, the analogy seems appropriate.

The difference is, however, I must work at hearing the Lord when He commands me to move in a certain way at a certain moment in furthering the work He wants to do in the world. This is because I still have free will; the Borg do not. Peter and John had to hear the Lord, and then choose to be the physical mouth and hands of the Lord, when they lifted the lame man as they were walking towards the temple in Acts 3 -- an act done rather than going to the assembling point at the appointed time.

It is this "hearing and doing" which is "being" a Christian, not mere coming to a common location at a common time.

Remember I said that verses 19-25 were a contrast to verses 1-18? Look at verse 1, which I have expanded slightly:

"For the Law, since it was only a shadow of the good things to come and not the actual form of the thing to come, can not by the same sacrifices which are made continuously year after year, make perfect those who draw near in that manner."

Then look at verses 5-7:

Therefore, when The Lord Jesus comes into the world, He says: "Sacrifice and offering Thou has not desired, but a body Thou hast prepared for Me; in whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin Thou hast taken no pleasure. Then I said, 'Behold I have come, and in the roll of the Book it is written of Me, To do They will, o God."

These repetitious acts -- coming on Sunday, Wednesday etc -- even in furtherance of the purpose of the institution, are not what God wants. Rather, He wants a person doing His will moment by moment. Of course, that can include a group of people as well, and it can include coming on Sunday, Wednesday, etc. -- but it does not have to mean this. When I -- or we as a group -- do the things His Spirit directs, rather than the things our institutions direct, we are actually being the physical hands, ears, tears, etc. of Christ -- we are being His body of service -- we are then doing His will.

Thus another aspect of assembling is that each of us is working at his or her being assembled into the Body of Christ as the called and equipped person whom the head, Jesus Christ, then directs back into the world in service to Himself and others.

Many years ago, as I was complaining to God about something, the Lord called II Cor. 5:18-20 to my mind:

Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.

I said something like, "Yeah, we are all to be ministers of reconciliation." The Lord said, "But, Bill, for you it is a capital M and a capital R."

My part of Christ's body is as a minister of reconciliation. That may work itself out as:

assisting in the reconciliation of a person to God through Christ

(salvation), or

assisting in the reconciliation to God of one who has sinned but not

confessed or repented, or

assisting in the reconciliation between people who have hurt one another,

or

assisting in the reconciliation of people wrapped up in the doctrines of

man or man's institutions and having lost sight of the truths of God (which is

what this discussion is all about).

That is, this is my call, placed upon me by God before I was formed in my mother's womb, and for the fulfillment of which God gives His gifts as needed. I am, if you will, a 2 inch, 9/32's, 16 threads to the inch, hex-head bolt. Go to a hardware store and you will discover this is not a common bolt. And none of you are common, either.

Well, the deception which has crept into this concept of being a unique part of the Body of Christ is the belief that I can be and do it all by my lonesome. While that may be true in the abstract, it is extremely dangerous in reality.

I know I need God's written word;

I know I need the still small voice of the Holy Spirit; and

I know I need one-anothers to help check my hearing and help me avoid hearing Satan and/or acting in the flesh.

Yet another aspect of biblical assembling is that there is a Master Designer who has prepared us for being assembled into the Body of His Son for a purpose, as well as being assembled one to another for purposes of one-anothering and ministering to the world.

If I work at these twin aspects of assembling, and I respond when called upon, then I am bring righteous at that instant.

Thus there should be times when we come together for the purpose of seeking to help one another discover what part they are in the body of Christ -- what is the call, the attributes, and the gifting of each, and the purposes to which such might be put. That is not something which can be easily done on Sunday morning, and not even in the classical Sunday evening or Wednesday evening meeting. To do this, we need to revamp those meetings, or have other meetings at other times and/or places.

One neat thing about this whole idea of call and gifts is that if I move to a new town tomorrow, I need not look for the perfect church and try to fit into its form or purpose. Rather, when I arrive, I come as a minister of reconciliation, and I strive to be that among whomever I gather with. They, on the other hand, should be striving to discover that I am what I am, and then loose me among them to do that which I have been prepared to do.

But also, if there is a Master Assembler, the collective cannot tell the individual that the individual cannot exercise their call or gift or response to the direction of the Lord. In many churches today, Peter and John would have been told they could not heal that lame man, for that is not a part of the doctrine of that church.

Not too long ago, the church I attend interviewed a possible pastor, and there was much questioning about the role of women. That man would not allow a woman to assemble herself into the Body of Christ as called of God but only as decreed by the doctrines of man and the particular institutional church.

He squirmed around the biblical examples of women teaching -- by saying it may not have been during worship service, or in the church building itself. It is like the pastor who said to my wife that since her portion of the program was on Saturday, and in the basement, it would be alright for her to "teach".

What utter foolishness. How dare we tell God what He can or cannot do, or where and when He can or cannot do it, through someone He made for His purpose?

I will close with should be some obvious questions:

First, to what degree do any one-anotherings actually take place when we gather at the times and in the style that we gather in our Christian institutional facilities? To answer would require that we analysis the meaning of each type of one-anothering -- an excellent Bible study or sermon series. Only with understanding of what is entailed would we be able to say to what degree we are complying.

Second, do you know what part of Christ you are, and are you working at assembling yourself more fully into Him? Here again is a fruitful area for evening gatherings.

Third, in what ways do we institutionally positively assist in these first areas, and in what ways do we impede? While such a study and wrestling with one another may prove threatening to our time-honored traditions and doctrines, how can we fail to struggle openly with them? A study on the Doctrines of Christ, as opposed to doctrines of man or institutional church, might be a way to begin such a study.

Personally, I think it better to focus on the first two areas, for in doing so we should deepen our respect for one another, and be stronger in His body, and thus better able to wrestle peacefully with the question of doctrine rather than try to kill one another over doctrinal differences.