The plans were all set — with no time to wait for the weather to clear up.
Five college freshman piled into a silver Saturn Ion to make the drive from Dallas to Chicago as an ice storm stretched across the central United States. Partly from a false sense of immortality, and perhaps because none of these young Texans had a clue how dangerous driving on ice can be, we forged ahead with our plans to make it in time for the evening concert.
The roads through Arkansas were treacherous as the snow and sleet nearly turned the pavement into a skating rink. As we kept driving, the interstate was littered with one overturned semi after another. It may have been humorous if it were not so foreboding. Every few miles another felled truck declared the road unsafe for travel.
Each time the knot in my gut swelled. I wanted to turn back.
Seasons of the Christian life can have a similar effect. Casualties along the way can devastate hopes of making the long and perilous pilgrimage to our celestial city. Shipwrecked lives and invalidated professions haunt our steps and gnaw at our confidence. Passages like Hebrews 10:29 rightly inspire trembling.
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?
Reading the Warnings
“The way is narrow indeed, but it is still wide enough to link arms with your brothers and sisters on the journey.”
I worry about any impulse that tries to flatten the stark warnings of the biblical authors, too quickly smoothing out what is given to us jagged. Sin is deceitful (Hebrews 3:13), and it can harden hearts even when we should know better (Hebrews 10:26). Because of the potential for self-deception, when I see warning passages in Scripture, I do not want to soften or dismiss them, but rather keep digging. Diggers will find a precious word in Hebrews 10:26–31: For.
In essence, this sober passage (Hebrews 10:26–31) is a ground-level reason for an action-level exhortation (Hebrews 10:24–25). The author of Hebrews means for the warning to motivate a certain behavior. Falls from grace ought to inspire loving encouragement of fellow pilgrims.
The warning undergirds the command: “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together . . . encouraging one another” (Hebrews 10:24–25).
Tragedies along the Christian path are not invitations to shrink into isolation, but to expand in compassion. Indeed, “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31), so therefore, think hard about how to stoke the fire in your brother (Hebrews 10:24–25). Rather than such danger provoking us to cower, it ought to inspire loving-kindness.
Not Neglecting to Meet
Christians gather together to pray, exhort, and listen in light of the fearful reality that sin’s deception constantly poisons our affections for Christ. A powerful antidote to devilish venom works through my veins when voices in unison rehearse lie-cancelling truth every time we sing and read together. Christians do not neglect our weekly detox precisely because we have vividly seen the danger outside. Our songs are not gameplay.
We have a precious responsibility to assemble as agents of perseverance for one another. We do this in many ways in our Sunday gatherings. You are bonding yourself in love and exhortatory grace as you pass the bread and cup of the covenant to the brother and sister at your side. You are a parable of peace as you welcome one another to the fellowship of Christ’s body. By the Spirit, every song, every amen, every handshake, every passed communion tray pierces the invading darkness of idolatry, and stirs affections in your faltering neighbor. And the approaching day of judgment only increases the urgency of our gatherings (Hebrews 10:25).
Arm in Arm on the Narrow Way
The way is narrow indeed, but it is still wide enough to link arms with your brothers and sisters on the journey. Let those who have fallen along the path be a warning, not leading to lonely despair, but prompting toward brotherly affection. The road is far too dangerous to travel solo.
As you gather in worship with fellow sojourners this weekend, you have an inestimable role in reminding them of their calling. As you add your voice to the congregation’s song, you are a part of the Great Shepherd’s call to his own. God does not ultimately need your help to keep someone from snatching his sheep, but what a privilege to be part of his safekeeping work in another.
There have been casualties along the way; do not neglect to meet together.