Summary: A Hard Heart comes in stages: willful rebellion, going astray, spiritual ignorance, overt unbelief, and being deceived by sin.
Hold On to Jesus
SCRIPTURE READING: Hebrews 3:1-6
Hebrews 1 told us Jesus is Greater than Angels. Chapter 2 shows us Jesus as the Greater man. Chapter 3 says Jesus is GREATER than Moses. Moses was a faithful servant over God’s house, but Christ is the builder of the house itself and was faithful as a son over God’s house. And vs. 6 ends: We are his house, if we HOLD ON to our courage and the hope of which we boast. So how do we HOLD ON to courage and hope?
You don’t have to look any further than the next verse to find an answer. It starts this way, So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts …” Hebrews 3:7 Notice that the writer of Hebrews quotes the Holy Spirit here. And the Holy Spirit starts by shouting the word “Today!” That is a powerful word. It is also a difficult word for anyone trying to end a bad habit or start a good one. Some of us probably have the motto: “Don’t put off till tomorrow what you can put off till the day after.” Now be honest: how many of you are still waiting to get started on those New Years Resolutions? (I hate to be the one to tell you, but almost a month of the New Year is gone already!) If you think about it, New Years Resolutions are a way we try to FORCE ourselves to get busy doing what we put off doing the year before.
So, what does the verse tell us to do TODAY? Actually, we’re not told what TO do. We’re told what NOT to do. Today, if you hear his voice, do NOT harden your hearts. A hard heart is brittle, dry, inflexible … unable to respond, move, or receive grace. Obviously, that’s not a good thing.
We don’t have to wonder how to avoid having a Hard Heart because Hebrews 3 gives us some clear instructions. Verse 8 says 8do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert, 9where your fathers tested and tried me and for forty years saw what I did. Hebrews 3:8-9
1. Willful Rebellion
Hebrews gives the Israelites as an example of people who hardened their hearts. Most of you know the history of how Moses led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. God parted the waters of the Red Sea. He went before them in the day with a pillar of Cloud and at night with a pillar of Fire. He gave them Manna to eat and brought forth water from a rock for them to drink.
But in spite of all this, they rebelled against God. Synonyms for rebellion include words like mutiny, defiance, and riot. So you might be surprised to know what they did that God called rebellion. To put it simply: they whined. Over and over they griped, criticized and grumbled. They were so bad, that places where they wandered were given names like Meribah (contending) and Massah (testing).
I wish I could say God’s people in the church are never like those hard-hearted Israelites, but I can’t. Faultfinding and complaining probably does more harm to God’s church than any other sin. This is especially harmful when people bad-mouth the church leaders. (Understand, I’m not saying churches don’t have problems. But problems aren’t solved by going behind the scenes to criticize.)
Years ago, when I took my first trips to India, I worked with a missionary couple named the Morrises. The Morrises pioneered a mission in South India starting in the 1950’s and continued the work until their deaths in the 1990’s. When I met them in 1975, the mission had grown to over 450 churches and numerous children’s homes and medical clinics.
When I landed at the airport in Madras on the first trip, I was waylaid by some other missionaries who had a smaller work in the nearby area. They pulled me aside for the purpose of criticizing the Morrises and their mission. They made all sorts of accusations. When I told the Morrises about it later, their only comment was something like this: “Millions of people in India need to hear the Gospel. Why do other missionaries spend precious time and energy trying to tear down our work? (Oh, and by the way, they had nothing bad to say about the other missionaries.)
I learned an important lesson from that experience. When someone speaks ill of another Christian --- or of a church --- I remind myself of one thing: the person doing the criticizing is the one with the biggest problem.
Look at it this way. Scripture tells us that the church is the Body of Christ. How can anyone claim to follow Christ, and yet speak words that harm His Body? If you do or say hurtful things about a congregation, you are hurting Jesus Christ himself. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to stand before the Lord one day and try to explain why I bad-mouthed His church or hurt some of His people.