Yesterday we talked about the first warning in Hebrews: The Dangers of Drifting Away. This is just going along with the crowd and with the currents and pressures of this world’s system which will move you away from the truth. It is possible to wake up some day and find that you are not with God’s people nor with the truth at all. You have drifted from the truth because of an indifference to it. While you came to the truth, it never became something to which you anchored yourself. The truth will never change, but we can change, and this is the danger. It is possible to come to Calvary and be redeemed by the precious blood of Christ and then drift away from this position because of indifference to the things of the Lord. It is the first danger in the Christian life.
The second warning is: Don’t allow unbelief to harden your hearts, where you will face judgment. Have you ever “heard” God prompt you to act on something and ignored the prompting? The decimal level of the prompting will change after the first time. I’ve heard it louder when I ignored it the first time. Usually when it’s louder I will ask prayfully ask if it is really the Lord asking me to act. Unfortunately, many people suffer the silence of God because they refuse to respond to the prompting of His Spirit. He is waiting for us to be obedient.
God brought Israel out of Egypt and redeemed them from bondage and slavery. They were redeemed by the blood of the Passover lamb, and by the power of God. They did not liberate themselves; this redemption was His work, and He received the glory. It was glorious that Israel was redeemed out of Egypt; the tragedy is that they perished in the wilderness because of their unfaithfulness (Hebrews 3:7-19).
The result was that they never entered into rest (the promised land) (Heb. 3:10-11). The promised land was never a picture of heaven; it was a picture of rest. The generation that was saved out of Egypt by God’s grace and power never entered into this life of rest. A redeemed people may lose blessings which depend on continuing faith to enjoy. It is not enough to be saved by faith. “The righteous will live by faith.” If God’s people cease to live by faith, they cease to live a life of blessing in time.
Being “saved” gives us rest of conscience, and we have peace with God. “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). But then we can go on and enter into the rest of heart and have the peace from God. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Phil. 4:6)
Let’s make certain we aren’t departing from our faith in the living God. “See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today’, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end. As has just been said: ‘Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.'” (Heb. 3:12-15) The word “hardened” means calloused. It comes through the result of repeated irritations. There is callous for the hands and feet, but there is also a callous for the heart. We are never the same when we fail to respond to the Spirit’s wooing. Failing to respond always produces hardening. This is a terrible thing. It is the end product of an evil heart. The end result is no longer any sensitivity to the wooing of the Spirit.
Here is the route sin takes. The very people God rescued, provoked Him (Heb 3:16-18). An attitude of unbelief issued into a manifestation of complaining and this issued into divine discipline upon them from God. The road is always the same. It begins with an attitude, manifests itself in action and culminates in God’s judgment.
“Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience. For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” (Heb. 4:11-13) If ignoring and rebelling against the Word kept the Israelites out of the Promised Land, we must take it seriously. Moreover, the Word has a way of uncovering our tendencies to go astray and our weaknesses.
God’s Word is so powerful that it can separate the inseparable and scrutinize the inscrutable. While the Hebrew Christians may justify themselves — and we may justify our actions before God — it is God’s Word that will be the ultimate Judge, since it can discern what cannot be seen from the outside — the hidden thoughts and intentions of the heart. In other words, Hebrews is saying, don’t ignore the message of salvation, the Word of God to you. For if you do, God’s Word will pierce through all your defenses and expose your true motives.
For all of us who are saved, there is a Jordan River for us to cross. It is a personal issue between us and the Lord. Will we do His will completely by faith, or will we not? We do one of two things when we come to this point in our lives: we rebel or we surrender. What will it be for you? This passage is a sober reminder of the consequences of unbelief. Lay hold of Christ and His Word — and hang on — that you might finally enter His rest, the “Promised Land,” heaven where Christ dwells.