Sin's 'Do Not Call' List (Hebrews 3:12-14)
Topic: One Body: Love One Another Passage: Hebrews 3:12–3:14
Sin's 'Do Not Call' List
(One Body: Love One Another)
August 26th, 2018
I. Your Emergency Contacts
Think for a minute about the people who are on your 'emergency contact' list. Maybe for you that's just a mental list. Maybe you have that list in your important documents, or you have it under “ICE” (in case of emergency) in your phone.
Why are we starting today with your emergency contacts? Because I'm guessing that your emergency contact list is where you'd turn if you broke down someplace on the side of the road...right? And being stuck on the side of the road is the very situation, the very scenario, the precise predicament, we've been thinking about over the course of this past month.
As we've talked about, thinking about being stuck vehicular-ly can be helpful when it comes to feeling stuck spiritually. And feeling stuck spiritually is a reality that all of us have had or will have to face at some point. In fact, this morning you may be feeling exactly like that: stuck; not moving forward, not growing, not going anywhere spiritually. So what can you do?
Well, last time we talked about what it means to 'pop the hood' spiritually. It means starting with the basics. When your car is stuck, you look under the hood and check the basics: battery, hoses, belts, etc. Similarly, when you feel stuck spiritually, you should look to the most basic element of the Christian life: Christ.
But as we'll see this morning, when we start there, Christ himself often calls us to, in one sense, keep going. Let's turn to a passage that also begins with Christ. Turn over to Heb. 3.
II. The Passage: "Exhort One Another" (3:12-14)
You'll see that verses 1-6 are all about Jesus, the “apostle (i.e. God's authorized representative...the apostle) and high priest of our confession”, as verse 1 describes him.
But our focus this morning begins down in verse 12. In light of being spiritually stuck, let's consider what God has for us in these verses. Hebrews 3:12-14...
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.  For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.
So I hear in these verses the writer urging his readers (and God urging us) to carefully consider three things. Are you ready? Here they are: I hear the writer urging them to...
1. Carefully Consider Your Heart
You might have picked up on that emphasis in verses 12 and 13. In verse 12, he warns them explicitly and talks explicitly about a particularly dangerous heart: Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart. Why is that kind of heart so dangerous. Because, as the rest of the verse tells us, that's the kind of heart that can lead you to fall away from the living God.
But in verse 13, there is another reference to that same heart, though the word heart is not mentioned. Notice he warns them about being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. We know this is a reference to the heart, because the writer is pointing back to the OT verses he just quoted in verses 7-11. The quotation is from Psalm 95. Look at part of that quote, starting in verse 7...
Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice,  do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness...
So remember this: the book of Hebrews was written to Jewish Christians who were being pressured to abandon their faith in Jesus as the Messiah and go back to the old ways of Judaism. So the author wants to sober them up by reminding them of how their ancestors turned away from the truth, and how this Psalm was written as a warning in light of that.
I love how the writer introduces this quote: “as the Holy Spirit says”, “Says”, not “said”. A great reminder that the author believed God's word was “living and active”, as he describes it in verse 12 of chapter 4. We should believe that too, shouldn't we?
So “an evil, unbelieving heart” is a heart that's been “hardened by the deceitfulness of sin”. It's a heart that begins to believe sin's lies: “Wouldn't it be easier to just walk away from Jesus? Wouldn't it be easier to do what everyone else is doing? Don't you want to be accepted? Can the right path really be this difficult? Remember the good old days?”
When you're spiritually stuck, sin's deceptive voice can sound just like that. Remember, this is the same book and this is the same writer who reminded his readers that he wrote: so that you may not be sluggish. (6:12) That's being spiritually stuck. But he's also urging them to...
2. Carefully Consider Your Heading
These first readers, the original recipients of this book, needed to understand the gravity of what was happening, both in their church community and in their own hearts. Remember what the author said about where a hardened heart will eventually take you? It can lead someone “to fall away from the living God”. If not addressed, if not dealt with, a hardened heart, full of unbelief, can lead to a permanent hardness in which someone walks away from the faith they once professed. This is why the author is pleading with his readers to consider their current spiritual heading.
Now, this kind of warning can be troubling for us, because it seems to contradict what we know about becoming a new creature in Christ. The NT is clear that Jesus will lose no one the Father gives to him (John 6:39). So how then can someone fall away from true faith?
They can't. The author of Hebrews confirms that for us in verse 14. Look again at what he tells them and us: For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.
How can you tell if someone has truly “come to share in Christ”? They will not fall away, but instead, will “hold [his or her] original confidence firm to the end”. Now does God use warnings like this to spur them on, to encourage them to check their hearts, to sober true believers? Absolutely.
But if that's true, who are those who fall away? They are those who have confessed Christ, but don't truly know Him. Their falling away is not from true faith, but from professed faith, from the truth, and from the community of God's people.
Like these first readers, I want to encourage you to think clearly and carefully, to be sober- minded when it comes to the condition of your heart. Where might your spiritual stuck-ness lead you if your aren't serious about your condition? In light of all of this, we find the writer urging his readers to...
3. Carefully Consider Your Help
When you've popped the hood of your broken down vehicle, and looked over the basics, in most cases you're still going to call for help, right? Even if you can identify the problem, it's doubtful you will have the tools and the parts you need to fix it right there. And so...you pull out a tool you do have: your cell phone.
When you're spiritually stuck, when your heart is battling with complacency or confusion, or maybe unforgiveness or unbelief, you may be able to identify what's happening inside, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't call for help.
Now, calling for help should always start with God. Pray! Talk to Him about what's happening with your heart. Ask Him for the help he loves to give.
But notice what we read here about calling for help. Verse 13: 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.
Yes, calling for help begins with God. But in so many cases, God's response to our prayers comes through the help we offer to one another. Isn't interesting that, in this passage, the antidote for a hardening, for a doubting heart is exhortation from (i.e. the strong encourage-ment of) our brothers and sisters in Christ? He doesn't say “pray harder”. He doesn't say, “memorize this set of verses”. He doesn't say, “Just give it time.” He doesn't say, “Go on a spiritual retreat.”
No. The author says (indirectly), “Listen to the exhortations of fellow believers!” His direct charge is to “exhort one another”. But it's clear that the author is addressing both those who need to speak and those who need to listen. Brothers and sisters, it is absolutely critical we understand the vital role God wants us to play in each other's lives, especially in the times of struggle we've been talking about.
III. Deception, Correction, Connection
If you're stuck, then when you're stuck, God is calling you to get out your emergency contact list and make that call. Brothers, sisters, don't hesitate. If you do, sin will continue it's hardening work. Remember, as is clear from this passage, sin is a liar. Sin deceives us into thinking, “I can handle this”, “I'll figure this out on my own”, “I don't want to be a burden”, “I'll be judged if I open up”, “No one has time for my issues”, “No one really cares...so, no, no, no...[sin tells us] don't call out to your faith family.”
You see, your 'spiritual emergency' contact list is sin's 'do not call' list. Our Enemy, working through your sin nature, will stop at nothing to stop you from reaching out to a brother or sister for help. The devil loves to keep us too busy for one another. He loves to keep us stuck on the surface in our relationships. He loves it when we believe our problems are too big or too ugly or too whatever to share with others. In the same way, our own sinful nature is telling us to keep the walls up. That it's safer that way.
Brothers and sisters, whether stuck or not, we need one another. The NT tells us that over and over again. But in times of struggle, that need is especially acute. As verse 13 reminds us, we need exhortation, and we need it “every day”. That means we need people who know what's happening in our lives, and people who are in our lives on a regular basis.
With that in mind, let me ask you this...whose on your 'spiritual emergency' contact list? Who does sin not want you to call when you're struggling spiritually?
If I'm not on there, please put me on that list. And please put Elder Steve on that list. We care about you. We want to help you. God has made us shepherds for precisely that reason. But God has other people in your life as well. Look around. Do you see them?
Some of you have specific people on your list, but something is holding you back. Something is keeping your from reaching out for help. Is it pride? Is it fear? Is it the memory of a bad experience, when someone you asked for help ended up hurting instead of helping? Whatever it is, please call out to God first, then to a brother or sister who can help.
At the same time, we need to hear what the Holy Spirit is saying through this passage, to every true follower of Jesus: He is saying “exhort one another every day”. Whether you feel stuck or feel fine spiritually, all of us are called to encourage one another in this way. How might you reach out in obedience to this verse? Who has God laid on your heart?
Brothers and sisters, friends, all of us, at some point, will feel spiritually stuck... complacent... stagnant...indifferent. All of us will wrestle with doubts. God understands this. He cares. But our stuck-ness cannot change his faithfulness. Even when we feel stuck, God is moving. The Holy Spirit is at work to draw our eyes back to Jesus and to His lordship. And He is at work to stir our hearts for one another. I love how both of these ideas are present later in Hebrews. Listen to how 10:23-25 points us back to the One we confession, and to one another...
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,  not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:23–25)