Faithlife Sermons

Forsake Not

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In August 1527, the black plague hit Wittenberg, Germany. As a result, many people left the city. However, others, like Martin Luther, stayed to minister to the ones who stayed. For Luther, he felt obligated to stay and pastor his flock. While some quarantined, Luther turned his home into a hospital. Several people who contracted the plague were moved to the Luther home where he and his wife took care of them. One of their patients was the wife of the Burgermeister or mayor of Wittenberg. She would die from her sickness in the arms of Martin Luther.
Luther is an example of one way Christians respond to tragedy. Yes, I said “One way”. Other Christians took people out of the town. Two of Luther’s colleagues moved the University where they taught out of Wittenberg for the time. They saw the need to do their best to protect their students by removing them from danger. This was another way that Christians responded to the sickness and death that loomed over them. In both cases, the pastors pastored their flocks. Christians ministered to the healthy and the sick.
While the teachers and students moved to Jena, they continued to meet. During that time, the teachers prayed with and taught them the word of God. Back at home, Luther did the same with the sick that he ministered to. All of this while dealing with a sick child of his own. What we see in both examples is the church continuing to be the church.
I do not give this introduction as a means of scolding anyone. I believe that many Christians today have done exactly the same thing. While outrageous government regulations and overreach have made it much more difficult to minister to the sick, we have. We have quarantined, though not to different cities, and have found ways to continue spiritually ministering to the healthy. Yes, we have through different methods followed the examples of those who came before us.
Please hear me out before you judge what I am saying. I am not speaking against anyone other than Satan himself. I am not judging anyone for their concerns or fears.
I am not judging the church for the actions we have taken. I have been in agreement of what we have done thus far. However, we have been legally barred from assembling unless we could meet certain unrealistic expectations. Expectations that have been touted as for the health and welfare of all, but in reality did not ensure the health and wellbeing of anyone. There is no safety apart from God. There is no protection from plague when we are not faithfully trusting God and being obedient to him. Any who have defied the government have been vilified for assembling, even when they went out of their way to meet the government requirements. Yes, the church has become public enemy number one here in America.
While we should do everything we can to obey the rulers over us, and to live peaceably with all men, those commands to not supersede our obedience to God. They are subordinate to obeying God; even if we have to pay a high price to the world. For 2,000 years Christians have been criticized, persecuted, imprisoned, and killed for doing what we have been told to not do; assemble together. We have been programmed to think that it is ok to assemble in large groups to purchase food, or to assemble in close proximity to others to purchase toilet paper and other home necessities, but it is somehow deadly to us and the whole of society if we maintain social distance with a few a church. Why is this such a big deal to the world? Because, contrary to what many try to claim, we ARE commanded to assemble together.
Turn in your Bibles to Hebrews 10:19-25
King James Version Chapter 10

19 Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; 21 And having an high priest over the house of God; 22 Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) 24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: 25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

Look with me beginning at verse 22:
Let us
having our
our bodies
Let us hold fast
our faith
Let us consider one another
Not forsaking the assembling our ourselves together
exhorting one another
These phrases speak of us working together. The very definition of church dictates that we assemble. The Greek word for church is ecclesia and means a called out assembly. Not a called out individual, but an assembly. Its origins are in the Greek senates of the Greek city-states. The senate was called out from the entire population for a specific purpose. So, when we define a church, we say that it is a called out assembly of baptized believers who have covenanted together to carry out the great commission. To be a church, we are required to assemble and work together.
Is it any wonder then that Satan has tried for 2000 years to prevent the church from assembling together. Since its very origin, Satan has led governments to forbid the assembling of churches. From the Jewish Sanhedrin, to the Roman emperors, to Asian dynasties, pagan rulers, and caliphates, governments have forbid Christians from meeting. It is ok to be a silent Christian in homes, but do not assemble together with others to worship your God.
Lets look at what the writer of Hebrews had to say concerning our assembling together.
I. Having therefore...
a. That word “therefore” means we need to look at what is “there before” our current text. In other words, what the writer is about to say is dependent on what he said before.
b. So, what was said before. Simply this, that Christ was a perfect sacrifice, better than the Old Testament sacrifices.
1. They could not save.
2. He was able to save perfectly
II. Let us draw near
a. We are commanded to assemble together to enter into the Holy of Holies, God’s presence.
b. with true heats - a genuine heart because we are united by the Holy Spirit that dwells in each of us; otherwise we are not part of the church
III. Let us hold fast
a. Part of what made the dark ages so “dark” was political control of the church. Even though many assembled, they were not permitted to learn the word of God together. Everything became ceremonial and vain repetitions. Though they assembled, the power was stripped from the assembly.
b. While it may seem good to have the support of the government, it is only good if the government keeps its nose out of the churches affairs.
c. It is better to live under a government divorced of the church that hates and persecutes the church, than to live under a government “married to” the church.
IV. And let us consider one another
a. If we stopped with just that phrase, there are endless directions we could run in. However, the writer did not stop there.
b. to provoke unto love and to good works.
1. we are to push and prod one another to love and good works.
2. This means these things are hard! This does not come naturally, especially to those who persecute us.
V. Not forsaking the assembling our ourselves together
I want to go ahead and say this, I DO NOT BELIEVE WE WERE WRONG TO SEPARATE FOR A PERIOD! Based on the information we were given, and the possible exposure to COVID-19 within our own church, we we looking out for the welfare of the whole congregation.
The initial reports made COVID-19 seem far more contagious and deadly than it actually is. I am not saying that it is not bad. It is. However, if you listen to the media, you would think half of the nation has it and half of them have died. That is far from reality.
Major corporations are able to operate but churches are not.
The rich and powerful are not going to hurt their bank accounts (regardless of risk) but they do not profit off of religion.
So, you can go to stores, but not church.
These are the same ones who advocate for the killing of babies and who say during a national tragedy, “We don’t need prayer, we need action.”
Despite some of them claiming the name of Christ, they fight against him with their every action.
We are under no religious obligation to obey these kinds of leaders.
If we were, the church would have died under first century Rome, before it ever actually got off the ground. Both local Jews and Imperial Rome forbid the assembling of Christians.
We are called to assemble and not forsake assembling.
We are told that some will (as the manner of some is).
To exhort means to encourage - we are to encourage one another
We are to assemble and encourage each other more, not less, as we see our approach to end times. Many of you have told me that things are falling in place for end times. Verse 25 tells us that we need each other more during this time. So is it any wonder that there are those trying to force us to assemble less?
This is not a call for rebellion against Government. Praise God that President Trump listed churches as “Essential” this week. However, we did not need his blessings. Jesus Christ deemed the church essential when he instituted it 2000 years ago. No decree of man can change that!
Rebellion is about an attitude. We are not to rebel against our enemies, but rather be obedient to God. Luke wrote, “Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Their words centered around obedience, not disobedience.
It is time for us to obey God, and trust him for the results.
As I said, I feel that we made the right decision when we chose to stop assembling. I also feel that we have learned a lot through this.
We have seen those in leadership lie to us
We have seen that making money is fine but worshipping God is evil
We have seen that persecution in America is a very real things.
We have seen pastors arrested.
We have seen churches fined.
We have seen a church burned.
God has showed us what the Prince of this world has planned for America. We are only the land of the Free and the Home of the Brave as long as God’s hand of protection is on us.
This Memorial Day, we not only need to remember those who died for our freedom in service to America, but also for those who shed their blood for our right to have the word of God and freely assemble together. May we honor the memory of those who died for our country and the memory of those who died in service to Christ!
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