The only way to make empty hearts full is to fill them with Jesus.
Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:22-25)
Just soak in those words from Hebrews and rejoice in the message they proclaim. Praise be to God that we get the high honor of coming together with other believers and worshiping the triune God who made it all possible. We have been cleansed on account of the death of Jesus for our sins—washed with water and the Spirit. Now we can approach God, confident in our forgiveness and God’s love for us.
Gathering and worshiping together with fellow believers is a gift from God. It’s a gift that in the last couple of years has not looked the same. Praise God that he has blessed us with technology still to be able to “gather” virtually, but gathering and worshiping virtually just doesn’t come close to gathering and worshiping physically, in person, with other Christians. It is difficult to spur one another on when we do not come together for worship.
We have found ways to worship and hear the message of the gospel. In a digital world, gathering together may have changed, but the need for spiritual growth has not. In fact, some may argue that the need for spiritual growth has drastically increased. The challenges of everyday life still bring temptations and hardships. It is helpful to be with other believers to grow. We need our fellow believers to encourage us, and they need us to encourage them. How do we do that? Holding to the hope we have in Jesus who is our great High Priest and not giving up meeting together.
A difficult time
When in-person worship ceased for many last year, an important part of our spiritual growth as believers was seriously hindered. We did not meet together as we used to. Soon congregations slowly opened back up and began once again to hold in-person worship services, even if they were with social distancing measures and special health protocols. This was something that couldn’t happen soon enough for many. The personal conversation and the sight of fellow believers once again encouraged us. We saw others and realized that we were not alone. We are all waiting for the day that Jesus returns. It’s knocking on our door, and we need other believers as we wait—to encourage, to comfort, and to strengthen one another.
Thinking back, as a pastor I cannot express how difficult it was that first Sunday when no one else was in the sanctuary as I spoke into a camera. I rejoiced that we could share the Word of God with believers through a screen in their homes, but it was difficult for us all.
One of the greatest ways to be filled with Jesus is to gather together and encourage one another in him.
Then Easter came and there still was no one in person with whom to worship. I wanted to shout, “He is risen!” but I knew that there would not be a response from the congregation, “He is risen indeed!” So much was missing. Yes, the Word was still there. Jesus was still there. The Holy Spirit was still strengthening the faith of believers through the Word. But the physical encouragement of believer to believer was non-existent.
The difficulty increased. Receiving the body and blood of Jesus in Holy Communion as a family of believers was put on hold. Congregations did not witness the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit in Baptism. The public proclamation of couples committing themselves to Christ and each other as husband and wife was halted. Visiting loved ones in the hospital or home was in many places impossible. In the dark days of the pandemic, loved ones often could not see family except through the window, sometimes from outside their rooms. And think of all those who had a loved one die and were not able to have a service or gathering with others to mourn together and encourage one another. It wasn’t just churches and sanctuaries that were empty for a time. Many hearts were also empty.
Filling one another with Jesus
The only way to make empty hearts full is to fill them with Jesus. One of the greatest ways to be filled with Jesus is to gather together and encourage one another in him. From witnessing children proclaim through song, “Jesus loves me, this I know,” to receiving Jesus’ body and blood given and poured out for you. From publicly confessing your sins and faith side by side with your brothers and sisters in faith to singing that all your sins are forgiven “In Christ Alone.” From asking questions in Bible study to hearing new and wonderful insights from other attendees. In all these things Jesus is filling us up. In all these things our fellow believers are filling us up with Jesus. Jesus gave fully from his heart to fill your heart and mine. Thanks be to God that we have many opportunities as Christians to gather together to be filled up continuously with Jesus.
We have Jesus! Our hearts have Jesus. Our churches are filled with Jesus. Those who walk in faith near you are encouraging you in Jesus. The words you hear proclaimed in worship are the words of Jesus. We have direct access to God because of Jesus.
What a joy it is to gather together and worship the one and only Savior, Jesus Christ! He is our great High Priest. He is the one who brings joy to our hearts and fills us up. He is the one who brings us together to make a joyful noise to him all the days of our lives. Gathering together with fellow believers is a privilege that we all get to participate in because Jesus has paved the way.
The psalmist captures our joy as we come together to worship: “I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord’ ” (Psalm 122:1). May our prayer be that we can all come together this Thanksgiving season to praise God and give thanks for all the blessings we have received, in spite of our difficult times. And even if worship together is suspended again, let us not abandon his Word and always find ways to encourage each other.
One blessing should not escape us: We have each other. We are not alone; our fellow believers in Christ are there to encourage, lift up, and fill our hearts with the one thing that matters, Jesus Christ.
Author: Jeremy Cares
Volume 108, Number 11
Issue: November 2021