1. Just a few hours and we will say goodbye to 1997 and hello to a new year. New Year’s Eve is a time of reflection. A time we look back over the past year and consider what happened in the world and in our lives. A time we look ahead and wonder about the unknown that lies before us.
2. Although this is a time to look back and look ahead, there is one time that is most important to us and that is TODAY.
3. We are often told to make the most of the present - to not dwell in the past or the future. Now is what counts.
4. In a sense this is what the writer to the Hebrew Christians is saying. 5 times he uses the word "Today" in our passage. And he tells us why today is so important to us.
5. He is writing to Christians and we might say to those who think they are Christians.
6. When is today? Today is the time when God speaks to us and we are still able to respond to His word
a. 2 Cor 6:1-2 As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says, "In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you." I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.
b. Today is the day when you have the opportunity to enter into God’s rest. Today may be soon be over for some of us.
c. Today will end one of three ways - when God withdraws His offer of salvation to us, when we die, or when Christ returns.
d. We do not know when today will end so we have to deal with today as if it is right now.
7. Today we hear the voice of God speaking to us. It is the voice that spoke to the people of Israel in the desert of Sinai. It is the voice that spoke through the psalmist top warn the nation of Israel. It is the voice that spoke through the New Testament writer to those who had to decide if they would follow Christ. It is the voice that speaks through me this evening to you who must decide how you respond to God tonight.
8. We are commanded to do three things today.
9. First command begins in vs. 8. Do not harden your hearts.
a. The writer reminds us of what happens if we respond the wrong way. If we harden our heart and reject what God is telling us.
b. The people of Israel had been rescued by God from slavery in Egypt. In Psalm 95, which is quoted in Hebrews, we are reminded by two words of the attitude of the people
c. One Hebrew word of this Psalm is Meribah - a name given to the place of disobedience. It means rebellion or strife. The Greek equivalent means a faithlessness of heart or refusal to obey
d. The second word is Massah which means testing or proof and is the nane for the place of trial in the wilderness. The rebellion refers to the refusal of the people to take the land that God had promised them. They did not obey God or trust in Him.
e. They wanted to go back to the land of slavery. They refused to know God and to know that He would provide for them. Result found in vs. 11 "They shall never enter my rest". Meant that a 11 day journey through desert became a 40 year journey. Meant that the land of promise, the rest from the wandering and unsettledness was given to only Joshua and Caleb of that generation. The others, of which there were 603,548 men, died in the wilderness.
f. The command is that we must not harden hearts and refuse to obey God when we may find the going tough and the future to uncertain.
10. The second command is in vs. 12 - See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.
a. There are those who seem to be part of the church, of God’s people, who have hearts, as Calvin describes, that are diseased with sin, corruption, and wickedness that leads to unbelief.
b. We may have been taught the way of God but in the way we live we choose our own way, we become people that turn away from church and from what we believe. Like I did for years.
c. But what we are doing is not just that. It is turning away from the living God. From a deep personal, living relationship with God Himself. People don’t reject the church, or us, when they walk away. They reject God Himself.