Have you ever noticed how doing something wrong gets a little bit easier every time? The first time committing a particular sin, our conscience may burn within us! But if we manage to explain away that guilt and pep-talk ourselves into another go, we can surely work ourselves into a comfort zone with certain sins! Eventually, those sins might become normal life to us, and the very notion that it is “sin” can horribly offend us! It goes without saying that there is an urgent need for regular self-examination – and there are repeated warnings in Scripture to caution us against this “hardening” of our hearts!
One of these warnings was part of congregational singing in Psalm 95, which the writer of Hebrews appeals to in the warning passage of Hebrews 3:7-4:16. Whether you believe the Hebrews warning passages address believers or merely outwardly professing believers who think they’re saved, it is still imperative that we heed the warnings with caution, and examine ourselves carefully. After all, Ephesians 4:17-19 urges us (in my paraphrase): “No longer live like those without Jesus, whose ways are empty, dark, and alienated from God because of their hardened, callous hearts, given to wrong pursuits!” Let us not mirror the hardening of the lost against God in any way!
That vulnerability and susceptibility to hardening is the focus of Hebrews 3-4. We have a choice to make: do not harden your hearts! When truth is met with the circumstances, temptations, and desires of life, will we trust and obey God, or choose to go our own way, minimalizing the relevance of truth and the consequences of our decisions? With each occurrence that we ignore the prompt of God according to His Word, we succumb to the gradual process of a dangerous and fearful hardening in our hearts and lives. This underlines the dire need to heed a warning that is sober and urgent!
The passage contains 5 important steps that we can regularly take to avoid hardening our hearts, maintaining instead hearts that are softened and acclimated to God’s truth:
- Let the Word of God pierce you (Hebrews 4:12). The Bible is powerful and relevant, and we need to read it with that recognition – constantly. The Holy Spirit wields His sword in our lives, and it is God’s Word itself!
- Stay conscious that you are ever before God’s sight (Hebrews 4:13). How embarrassing it is for others to know our shortcomings; yet, in the process of getting comfortable with sin, we disregard the blatant truth that our souls are naked before God and He knows all.
- Draw near to Jesus amidst temptation (Hebrews 4:14-16). When temptation comes, and we stare longingly at that temptation, trying to hold back… we lose sight of our Savior, who is abundant in mercy and grace available always to us.
- Trust God’s Word so confidently that you are moved to obey it (Hebrews 3:12, 18-19). As Christians, we have believed in the power of an event in history – Jesus’ death and resurrection – to do the impossible in our lives, and save sinners. God’s truth bears that same power to enable our faithful obedience… but we are weak in faith. Lord, help our unbelief!
- Act now – not later (Hebrews 3:13, 4:7). It is no coincidence that the word “today” occurs 5 times in this passage. We deceive ourselves if we decide that we will make future plans to get things right. God is calling us to trust and obey Him, Now – why wait?
Today, if you will hear His voice… harden not your hearts!