Summary: One of Satan’s ways of attacking God’s people is through woundedness. Therefore, we must learn how to let God heal our hearts.
In our passage for today, the writer of Hebrews speaks to us about spiritual warfare. You might ask, “Where do you get that? Isn’t this passage one about holy living and getting along with others?”
Well, we understand that the writer is emphasizing an aspect of the believer’s spiritual warfare by the fact that the phrase “Make every effort” literally refers to the effort put forth by a warrior in fierce pursuit of an enemy. We could literally translate the phrase as “strive like a warrior.” So the writer tells us that peace with others and holiness with God are such worthy pursuits that they deserve our very best effort and attention.
It is interesting as well to note how the writer connects living in peace with others and holiness. The Greek word translated “holiness” here is defined by Thayer’s Greek Lexicon as “sanctification of heart and life.” In other words, if I am going to be right with others and right with God, things must be put right in my heart. In fact, the writer tells us that unless things are right in my heart, I will not see God at work in the midst of His people - “without holiness (sanctification of heart and life) no one will see the Lord.” This echoes what Jesus said in Matthew 5:8.
“Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” - Matthew 5:8 (NIV)
So we understand that if we want to see God work among us, we need to strive like a warrior to make sure our hearts are right. Now, when we think about our hearts being right, we think about sin; and certainly, our hearts need to be free from sin if we are going to be pure in heart.
However, the emphasis here in our text is on something else that our heart needs to be free from if our hearts are going to be pure and holy. Our hearts need to be healed of their wounds.
While a sin is “self-inflicted;” a wound is “other-inflicted.”
While sin is accompanied by authentic guilt; wounds are not. They are usually accompanied by false guilt.
While a sin can be repented of; a wound cannot.
While a sin can be forgiven; a wound must be healed.
The writer warns us against allowing wounds of the heart to remain unhealed. He speaks of the fact that if wounds of the heart remain unhealed, a bitter root in one’s life can grow up to cause trouble within the body of Christ and defile fellow believers. Untended wounds of the heart can cause us to sin in our attitudes and our actions, resulting in our not being right with God or others.
It is imperative then, that I learn how to deal with wounds I receive, so that I might not be a hindrance to the work of God. How can my wounded heart be healed?
1. Realize who is behind the wounding of my heart.
This fact that the writer urges us to “strive like a warrior” lets us know who it is that is responsible for planting the “root of bitterness.” The Bible says that it is Satan who seeks to wound the hearts of God’s people.
“Take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” - Ephesians 6:16 (NIV)
The word, “bitter” comes from a root word meaning “to bite.” We learn from this that many of our sinful attitudes and actions spring from hurts of the heart; and the one who is behind these hurts is none other than Satan. This is what Paul tells us in Ephesians 6:10-12.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood . . .” - Ephesians 6:10-12 (NIV)
A. Satan’s strategy - The Bible tells us that we have three enemies as the people of God.
1) The Devil - “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” - 1 Peter 5:8 (NLT)
2) The World - “Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you.” - 1 John 3:13 (NIV)
Our first enemy, the Devil, works through our second enemy, the world, to apply external pressure on us to sin and keep us from being holy or at peace with others.
“Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world - wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important - has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him.” - 1 John 2:15-16 (The Message)