Summary: The possibility of falling away from Christ is greater than most of us think--no one is entirely immune from this awful outcome. It all begins with how we come to respond to God's voice, when we know He has spoken to us, and even in small things, choose to ignore Him.
One of the great challenges of the pastoral profession is discerning who to help among those who are in evident financial need, and when to help them, and then how much to help them. Despite our best and most sincere efforts, pastors young and old, sometimes fail.
I remember well the story of a fellow Reno Bible-teaching pastor who, of course, pastored a much larger church than I have. He told of how he spent hours upon hours, days upon days, attempting to find an adequate apartment from someone in his church who was threatened with homelessness. The person had a very limited income, so the pastor had spent hours personally calling around the city trying to find a place that his beneficiary could afford; he spent hours contacting government agencies whom he hoped might subsidize the rent, and finally, the day came, amid much exhaustion for him, but much encouragement that the goal had been acheived. It was time to revveal the now affordable apartment complete with all the most basic amenities and now an affordable rent provided for to the person for whom he had done all that work. And the person walked into the apartment nonchalantly, look around, and being wholly unimpressed, shrugged their shoulders and said, “Nah.” Then they walked out without a single word of sorrow or gratitude for all the sacrifices the pastor had made on their behalf. The pastor said he had learned a lesson—don’t care more about the person’s welfare than the person cares for his own welfare.
It’s easier talking about the mistakes of others, but I have been in the same situation. I made myself and the church available to the beckon call of a couple guys just a couple years ago, who because of very poor planning on their part, found themselves in desperate need. I was there to provide for a prescription for a dangerous, potentially life-threatening infection; I was there to rescue them from homelessness on a cold and snowy night; we were there to tow their vehicle away from the side of a busy thoroughfare. I was there to buy plenty of groceries so they could eat. But the moment I told them we had done all that we could do, they not only disappeared from all church events, but of all things, directed their cell phone company to block all calls coming from my number.
What I realized through these kinds of experiences is the incredible depravity of man--how man will use and abuse, manipulate and deceive others for their own selfish ends. It also occurred to me that this is the way that mankind, by and large, treats God, their Creator, Sustainer and Provider, all the time. So I’m not at all surprised when the Book of Hebrews tells us that there is great consequence when someone falls away from faith in the Christ who died on the cross to pay the penalty for their sins.
And that is the pointed message of our section of chapter 3 today: Don’t dare fall away from Christ, or you’ll fully deserve the wrath of the living God.
Remember, the book is written about 65-70 A.D. to Jewish Christians most likely living in Judea who had grown weary of decades of persecution and were contemplating abandoning Christ to go back to Judaism.
Having just explained the superiority of Christ’s revelation to that of angels and even Moses, and exhorting his readers not to harden their hearts when they hear God’s voice, in verses 12-19, the writer now brings us to four very powerful applications. First, don’t dare fall away. Second, the antidote to falling away is constant encouragement and fellowship. Third, the cost of falling away is revealing you were never saved in the first place. And the fourth is the importance of recognizing that the danger is pervasive—absolutely anyone among us can stop believing and obeying, with great consequence.
Verse 12 provides us with the central exhortation of the book. Don’t fall away from the living God by abandoning Christ. Don’t fall away from the living God by abandoning Christ.
“Take care (see to it), brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God.”
The writer clearly believes that he’s writing true believers, but he’s admitting that some among those whom he writes may prove not to be by their apostasy from the faith. And he tells them that it is clearly their responsibility, their choice, to not allow apostasy to take place in their lives, and in anyone’s life whom they know.
And he does not shrink from telling them exactly what kind of heart results in apostasy. It is an evil, unbelieving heart. Nope, there’s nothing morally neutral or accidental about falling away from Christ. It is the result of both an evil, and an unbelieving heart—evil in that like those ungrateful recipients of tremendous love and sacrifice that I spoke about earlier, these people are willing to abandon a Christ who sacrificed his very life to save them from these very kinds of sins. How dare they trample under foot the blood of Christ to save them from whatever level of inconvenience and persecution they might experience as a result of following Christ in this short life?!