The pressures we are experiencing should draw us closer to Christ and each other.
We live in strange times. Certainly, COVID-19 is an enigma of its own. We have yet to understand exactly how it is contracted, its lasting impacts on our minds and bodies, or how it originated. But the times I am speaking about is the state of affairs in the earthly church. Since COVID, one-third of practicing Christians have not attended church—online or in-person.
Over the past couple years, we have witnessed several high-profile Christians question or renounce their faith. From seminary professors to popular authors to Christian artists, some whom we thought were believers have come to question their belief in Jesus and the Scriptures.
At the same time, we’ve seen celebrity pastors and gospel artists caught up in scandal after scandal. And we must ask ourselves, what in the world is going on? Clearly, apostasy and scandal are nothing new to the earthly church. The author of Hebrews warned the early community not to apostatize (6:1-20). And Paul rebuked the Corinthians for being proud of tolerating a man sleeping with his stepmother (1 Cor. 5:1-2).
Yet, things seem to be different. As America is becoming increasingly secular, polytheistic, and anti-Christian, the church is experiencing a shaking. I almost want to call it birth pains. Could the Lord be cleaning house to prepare the remnant—those faithful few who refuse to abandon the faith—for His glorious return (1 Pet. 4:17)? From the falling away, turning away, and exposing away, it certainly appears that we are experiencing a purge.
So, what should we do during this time of strange happenings? In Hebrews 10:22-25, the author gives us three imperatives: draw near (v. 22), hold fast (v. 23), and consider how (v. 24).
We Must Draw Near
The imagery of drawing near depicts the follower of Jesus as a worshipper seeking to access God’s presence. During the time when Israel worshipped God under the Law of Moses, they were only granted limited access to Him. They could only go so far as the outer court, and it was the responsibility of the priests to offer up their sacrifices to God. Furthermore, only the High Priest could enter the Most Holy Place, where God would graciously avail Himself to receive the High Priest, one time a year, as he made atonement for the entire nation.
But Jesus, as the ultimate High Priest and atoning sacrifice, provided full satisfaction for God’s just demand of payment for our sins. As a result, believers now have full and free access to God’s presence anytime and anywhere.
Given that we have unfettered and unrestricted access to God, we are encouraged to draw near to Him that we might obtain His mercy and find grace to help in the time of need (4:16). Now is not the time to draw back, as some have done (10:39); it is time for us to seek the face of God like never before and take advantage of the kindness and favor that He lovingly offers us. For when we draw near to Him, He will draw nearer to us (Jas. 4:8).
We Must Hold Fast
The recipients of this letter were contemplating returning to the former religious system that was proven to be inferior to the way of worship they experienced with Jesus. He is better than the prophets (Heb. 1:1-2), angels (1:4), Moses (3:5-6), and Aaron (8:1-6). Therefore, their faith in Jesus required a firm commitment, irrespective of the hardships and pressures they were facing.
We too are under increasing hardship and pressure. Christianity is under assault in America by our own government, the moral failures of influential Christian leaders have increased the accusations of religious hypocrisy, and the devastating impact of COVID has challenged some to question the goodness of God.
But we are called to hold fast our confession of faith in Jesus as God’s Son and Savior of the world, because God is faithful to each and every one of His promises. Holding fast is not about how faithful or strong we are, but how faithful and strong God is.
Our Bible is replete with instance after instance of God fulfilling every promise He made, from the death and resurrection of the Seed of Eve in Genesis 3:15 forward. But we don’t have to look to Noah, Moses, or David to find anecdotes of God’s faithfulness. We can tell our own stories of how He has proven Himself to be trustworthy. And it is the Scriptures and our stories that remind us that—irrespective of what we see, hear, or experience—our faith will be rewarded if we hold fast (see Hebrews 11).
We Must Consider How
The final exhortation the author gave speaks to the necessity and importance of maintaining a self-supporting community. As they were being socially ostracized and marginalized by their friends, families, and neighbors, they were encouraged to think creatively about (consider) how they could support each other.
Two ways they could do so was by meeting together and encouraging each other. Having lost the fellowship and social network of their previous relationships, it was important for them to consider how they could find encouragement, compassion, sympathy, and love from their new community. By frequently meeting together and reinforcing Christian conduct, they would receive the stimulation necessary to continue to live godly in an evil society.
We too find ourselves socially isolated—by COVID and culture. Sadly, many have isolated themselves from their local church community, making them vulnerable to apostatizing or backsliding. But our assembling together, whether in person or virtually, is critically important to our spiritual and social well-being.
Now is not the time to abandon our faith or each other. The Lord is on His way back, and as we see the day of His glorious return drawing near, we—the remnant—would be wise to heed the exhortation of the writer of Hebrews to draw near, hold fast, and consider how we can endure until He comes.
Rev. Isaac Hayes is the president of Healing of the Soul Ministries. He is also an Assistant Pastor at the Apostolic Church of God in Chicago, IL, and a doctoral student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL. Follow Rev. Hayes on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at @RevIsaacHayes.