Posted December 10, 2014
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
Pulling from the imagery utilized in Psalm 95 and the Exodus, the writer of Hebrews issues a strong warning about hearts like ours, so prone to wander. He points out the effects of sin vividly: It breeds evil and unbelief in our hearts, it leads us to fall away from the living God, and it hardens our hearts in deceitful ways that we are unaware of. Not only does he point to the effects of sin, but he also calls his readers to fight this sin on two levels: personally & communally.
Fighting Sin Personally
We are personally responsible to “take care” lest there be in us an unbelieving heart. There’s an element of self-awareness here and self-examination that is incredibly important as we consider personal disciplines. How aware of the state of your own heart are you when it comes to God? To others around you? Do you have any processes in place that allow you to look in the mirror with honesty? Consider David’s prayer in Psalm 139:23-24 as he sought out God’s light in his own life:
Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!
Note that it is in this very “taking care” of one’s own heart that leads you back to the living God as opposed to falling away from Him.
Fighting Sin Communally
The writer of Hebrews doesn’t stop with individual! God knows our crooked hearts more than we do, and knows we need more help than we can get alone. He enlists a community of people in this fight for joy in God and against sin. More and more, we find a spirituality in the West that affirms a deep love or admiration for Jesus, but a disdain for His Bride, the Church. She’s seen as an alternative, an option, an accessory; as long as it’s convenient to us and makes sense in our life stage, then we’ll be a part of a church community. Once it becomes too painful, or we find ourselves too busy or bored, we sadly move on… This places these “Lone Ranger Christians” in incredibly vulnerable places spiritually and easy targets.
In Scripture, we see God’s intent is precisely the opposite: flourishing Christians are to be in community in local churches; not just attenders, but living so closely to others that they see us as we really are and not just as we like to present ourselves. They see our sin, our hardness of heart, and not just see it, but in turn exhort us along and warn us! Isn’t it sad that “love” is defined so loosely and limply in our culture? If we are truly loving, like God Himself who bears a holy love, we will exhort one another away from sin and toward Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith. This isn’t merely some legalistic exhortation, but rather the cry of concern of brothers and sisters at heart level!
Not only do we need others, but we need others to exhort us “every day”! Our understanding of community gets shot at again here… Too often we see people from our community once a week for an hour or two, but they never get close enough to see us as we really are. This was not God’s intent for His Church! God’s intended means of living faith-full lives while fighting sin is through Christian brothers & sisters who know each other in real ways and can offer daily & mutual exhortation and accountability.
Friends, take care! Be vigilant! Sin is far more deceitful than you think it is. In God’s wisdom, He’s intended that you fight sin in community and grow to love God more and more.
If you want to dive more into this text and the various issues surrounding it, you can read or listen to a helpful sermon from Sam Storms’ here entitled “Perseverance Is A Community Project”: http://bridgewaychurch.com/sermons/sermon/2014-05-11/perseverance-is-a-community-project
Song by Tyler & Leah Hayes.
Production by Dustin Ragland.
Artwork by Jacob Cowdin.