Provoking One Another

I read this meme on social media, which was put out by a local gathering called “church,” but which is a very modern and market-driven institutional “church” (business). The meme said: “We can’t motivate and provoke one another to love and good deeds in the church if we’re not coming together to meet as the church.”

And what is “the church”? It is the body of Christ comprised of all genuine believers and followers of Jesus Christ who have been crucified with Christ in death to sin, and who have been raised with Christ to walk in newness of life in him, no longer living as slaves to sin, but now as slaves to God and to his righteousness. Thus sin is to no longer reign in our mortal bodies to where we obey its sinful desires, for if sin is what we obey, it ends in death, not in eternal life with God. But if obedience to God is what we obey, it leads to righteousness and sanctification and its end is eternal life (Romans 6:1-23).

But most of what is called “church” today in America are businesses of men being marketed to the world, and so they are run like businesses, and so they are attracting the world to their gatherings, and so there isn’t much of a place at all in these gatherings for the body of Christ, the true church, to provoke one another to love and good deeds. For most everything is already scripted and the body of Christ is mostly not being given that room or encouragement to provoke one another to love and good deeds. Or we are being encouraged NOT to provoke one another to love and good deeds.

For, in fact, most of those professing faith in Jesus Christ appear to be rejecting the provoking of one another to love and good deeds and they are calling that “being judgmental” or “getting in your face” and they are encouraging “staying in your own lane.” And they may even invite you out of their gatherings if you do provoke others to love and good deeds. But for now the internet is wide open for us to “provoke one another to love and good deeds” because here we have the freedom of expression and the space to share what we believe. And we can gather together with believers here.

And this meme was in reference to Hebrews 10:24-25 which says:

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

But do you know what it says right after that? It says in verses 26-27:

“For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.”

So, there is a direct correlation between stirring up (provoking) one another to love and good works and this warning against continuing in deliberate and habitual sin against God and against other humans.

And then it continues…

“Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay.’ And again, ‘The Lord will judge his people.’ It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:28-31).

So, we need to take this seriously. But let’s go back to verses 24-25 and examine their meaning for a few minutes. For this word “stir up” means “provocation which literally jabs (cuts) someone so they must respond.” It cuts them to the heart, in other words, like the word of God does (Hebrews 4:12). So, this is not a mere recommendation being offered, but this is speaking the truth of God’s word to them in love to let them know what the Scriptures teach and to warn them of the same things the Scriptures warn us against so that we are not led astray and so we obey our Lord.

And this provoking to love and good deeds is what? The “love” referred to here is love which centers in moral preference, which is to prefer what God prefers and to choose his choices. So this is about living godly and moral lives in holiness and in righteousness and in moral purity and in truthfulness and in obedience to our Lord, and not in sin. And the “good works” are the works of God which he prepared in advance that we should walk in them (see Ephesians 2:10; Titus 2:11-14; 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12, etc.). They are not the works of our own flesh which we choose to do on our own.

But if you, in the Spirit, attempt to “provoke one another to love and good works,” you are likely to get your “hands smacked” (figuratively speaking). And if you are on social media, your fellow Christians may just unfriend you with no discussion at all, and they may even block you. And if you attempt doing this in the gatherings of the church, via appropriate means of communication, you may be expelled from the gatherings, invited to leave, banned from the church property, put on church discipline, and treated as though you are the enemy when you were doing what was right.

And the assembling together of ourselves is the assembling together of the body of Christ who have died with Christ to sin and who are to be living to God and to his righteousness. And that is why our gatherings are for us to provoke (strongly urge, exhort) one another to loving others with the love of God and to love God in walks of obedience to his commands, and to doing the works of God which he prepared in advance that we should walk in them in his power and strength and wisdom, and for his glory, honor, and praise. And we are to be exhorting (encouraging) one another to not walk in sin.

Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer

Lyrics by Thomas O. Chisholm, 1897
Music by W. J. Kirkpatrick, 1897

Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.

Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find.

O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer others to save.

O to be like Thee! while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.

Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.

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