Hebrews 3:12(2)

Sermon preached on September 17, 2017 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2017. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

Just over a year ago I did a really crazy thing. It was so crazy that I'm actually embarrassed to tell you about it. But it does have relevance to our text so I will tell you what happened. One evening in late July at about 8 o'clock our doorbell rang. The gentleman at the door asked if we had a grey cat. For an instant I wondered why he was asking that—but then it dawned on me—he must have run over our cat. My heart sank. It was really sad. He actually pointed to our cat by the side of the road because we could see his dead body from our front door. The man was very nice and apologetic and I knew it wasn't his fault. He said that the cat had darted out in front of him and that there was nothing he could have done to avoid him. I told him that I would look after the cat and got my shovel and went out and buried our cat in our yard. As I was digging the hole I looked over at Squirrel and for a few moments it didn't look like him. It actually looked like our other cat, his sister Mouse. But I knew it couldn't be Mouse because Mouse hardly ever goes outside and when she does she always stays close to the house. I finished digging the hole and buried Squirrel.

I knew it was Squirrel but deep down I was wishing it wasn't him. I was thinking maybe it was some other grey cat that got run over. This was totally unplanned but the next morning when I got up and I looked outside to see if Squirrel was in the yard as he usually was. But there was no sign of him. When I didn't see him I opened the door and called for him like I had done so many times before. That was the crazy thing I did. Of course he didn't come. He was dead and buried. He wasn't living any more. There was no point looking out the window for him, calling him. He was dead and gone.

But as human beings are often act like I did when I called that dead cat. We focus on things that are dead or non-existent. At the same time we ignore the living God. In many ways we act and behave like God didn't exist.

I could give many examples. When something good happens to people they will say,

"What luck I had. Was I ever lucky. I thank my lucky stars."

What nonsense. There are no such things as 'lucky stars'. There is no such thing as luck. God rules the universe. It's because of His mercy and grace that we receive good things. As James 1:16–17 says,

"Don't be deceived, my dear brothers.
Every good and perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights,
who does not change like shifting shadows."

Attributing things to 'luck' in reality means that we don't recognize God's goodness to us like we should. It means that we don't thank God like we should.

Another example. When we have hurricanes like Hurricane Harvey which recently hit Texas or Hurricane Irma which impacted Florida, people talk about Mother Nature, as if she was a real thing.

But the Bible tells us that God is in control of all things, including nature. Psalm 115:3–8 says,

"Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him."

In Isaiah 45, where God declares, (verse 5)

"I am the LORD, and there is no other;
apart from me there is no God."

He also declares, (Isaiah 45:7)

"I form the light and create darkness,
I bring prosperity and create disaster;
I, the LORD, do all these things."

And regarding the weather, the psalmist says, (Psalm 147:15–18)

"He sends his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly.
He spreads the snow like wool
and scatters the frost like ashes.
He hurls down his hail like pebbles.
Who can withstand his icy blast?
He sends his word and melts them;
he stirs up his breezes, and the waters flow."

In attributing these things to powers that are not God, we are robbing God of glory and are turning away from the living God. Our text warns us not to do that. It says, (Hebrews 3:12)

"See to it, brothers, that none of you has
a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away
from the living God."

How crazy to turn away from Him. How crazy we are not to be aware that our God is a living God. How crazy not to live as though our God is a living God.

One truth that you as a Christian should be convinced of, and one truth that you should always live by is the fact that

your God is the Living God.

Our God is alive. In the Old Testament this term the 'living God' is often contrasted with other, so called, 'gods' or idols. Gareth Lee Cockerill writes, (Hebrews, NICNT; p. 184)

"The God of the OT is regularly described as the 'living God' because, in contrast to the gods of the nations, he alone acts, demonstrating his power and keeping his word. When the wilderness generation refused to enter the Promised Land, they denied the adequacy of God's power and the certainty of his promises. Thus by their refusal they were acting as if he were not 'living'. This denial took concrete expression in their question, 'Is God among us or not?' (Num 14:11)."

So I ask you,

do you live as though God is alive?

Some people put God out of their minds and pretend that He doesn't exist. They don't think that they're pretending—they convince themselves that He doesn't exist.

In the late 1800's German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche proclaimed, "God is dead". He taught that human beings killed God, that we don't need that concept any longer. He believed the death of God meant that life is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value.

Many in our society today have followed his lead and they act like they are not responsible to any one. They live their lives as if they are independent of any higher power. They are like Pharaoh when Moses went to him and told him that God commanded him to let the Israelites go. Pharaoh said to Moses, (Exodus 5:2)

"Who is the LORD, that I should obey him
and let Israel go?
I do not know the LORD and I will not let Israel go."

They have nothing but contempt for the God to whom they are responsible.

We Christians can be influenced by our secular society. If we live our daily lives without thinking about God, without praying to Him—we will lose sight of His presence with us. This leads to a wandering away from God. We become conformed to our society. We become like unbelievers. We live our lives without obeying him. Gareth Lee Cockerill tells us that the phrase 'to fall away from the living God' (Hebrews, NICNT; p. 184-185)

"is to act in such a way that one definitively rejects the reality of his power and the validity of his promises. It is easy, however, to miss the shocking force of this phrase. There is little evidence that the recipients of Hebrews were tempted by idolatry. Nevertheless, if they refuse to live by faith in God's power and in anticipation of his promises, they will be no better off than people who have turned 'away from the living God' to worship dead idols."

Our God lives. We are to realize that and live accordingly. One of the simplest ways this is expressed in Scripture is in Genesis 5 in describing Enoch, the seventh from Adam. It says of Enoch, (Genesis 5:22–24)

"And after he became the father of Methuselah,
Enoch walked with God 300 years
and had other sons and daughters.
Altogether, Enoch lived 365 years.
Enoch walked with God; then he was no more,
because God took him away."

Like Enoch you are to walk with God. You are to be continually aware that God is living and that He is at your side. This is one of the underlying assumptions in many of the commands that we find in Scripture. For example, 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18 says,

"Be joyful always; pray continually;
give thanks in all circumstances,
for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

Why are we to be joyful always? One of the reasons is because our God lives. He is alive. He is with us. He as there to help us, guide us lead us. His presence is with us.

Of course He's alive. If He weren't alive we would cease to exist. In Acts 3:15 Jesus is called,

"the author of life"

He is the Author of Life because He lives. He lives and gives life to others. Every day He gives us life. Hebrews 1:1–3 says that the Son (Jesus), sustains,

"all things by his powerful word."

Colossians 1:16–17 says of Jesus,

"in him all things hold together."

In Athens the apostle Paul said, (Acts 17:24–28)

"The God who made the world and everything in it
is the Lord of heaven and earth
and does not live in temples built by hands.
And he is not served by human hands,
as if he needed anything, because he himself gives
all men life and breath and everything else.
From one man he made every nation of men,
that they should inhabit the whole earth;
and he determined the times
set for them and the exact places where they should live.
God did this so that men would seek him and
perhaps reach out for him and find him,
though he is not far from each one of us.'
For in him we live and move and have our being."

Moment by moment God gives us life.

There's a profound lesson we can draw from this.

Whenever you realize that you're alive, no matter what pain you are in, no matter how difficult it is to draw your breath, no matter how hopeless your situation seems from an earthly perspective,

the fact that you're alive means that your God is alive.

If He wasn't alive, if He wasn't sustaining all things, if He wasn't holding everything together—you wouldn't be alive. But since you are alive you know that He is alive.

Why does God tell you to be joyful always? One reason is because He is alive. He is alive so this means that your life is in His hands. This means that you can have absolute confidence that you will be delivered. This means that your hope can soar. Your God lives. Your heavenly Father lives, the Good Shepherd lives, the Spirit, who gives you life, lives. As Job said, (Job 13:15)

"Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him;"

We are to be joyful. God's presence is with us.

Why are we to pray without ceasing? One of the reason is because God is alive.

He is alive to hear and answer our prayers.

He is alive to know us, our situation, our needs. In Matthew 10:30 Jesus told us that the hairs of our head are all numbered. He is alive so we can do what Proverbs 16:3 tells us,

"Commit to the LORD whatever you do,
and your plans will succeed."

He is alive, giving us life, giving us ability to help others, to life for His glory.

David, trying to convince King Saul to let him go and face Goliath, twice used the phrase, 'the living God'. David knew he served the living God. If you know you are walking with the living God, it will give you courage, hope, confidence. It will go a long way to put fear far from you. Very often Christians become afraid because they forget they are serving 'the living God'.

As a Christian you need to keep this in mind as you live your life. Today's society is pushing in on Christians, wanting them to be afraid and forsake God. Know that He is living. A love a quote from John G. Paton, the pioneer Missionary to the New Hebrides. (Autobiography). He describes one scene where he and others were threatened by cannibals.

"A killing stone thrown by one of the savages grazed poor old Abraham's cheek…a club was also raised to follow the blow of the killing stone, but God baffled the aim. They encircled us in a deadly ring, and one kept urging another to strike the first blow or fire the first shot. My heart rose up to the Lord Jesus…I realized that I was immortal till my Master's work with me was done."

Paton realized that his God was the living God. What faith.

Serving the living God means that we can do everything in His name. Colossians 3:17,

"And whatever you do,
whether in word or deed,
do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through him."

As 1 Corinthians 10:31 says,

"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do,
do it all for the glory of God."

He is alive and this means that whatever we do, we can do for Him. As Colossians 3:23 says,

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart,
as working for the Lord, not for men,"

He is alive, that means that His presence is with us. In the wilderness, God's presence was with the people and if they had trusted Him, they would have been delivered from all their foes.

As a Christian you should walk with your God. He is alive. Live accordingly.

Although we don't see God with our eyes and we don't hear Him with our ears—we have abundant proof that He lives. Psalm 19:1–4 says,

"The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language
where their voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world."

As a Christian you should know that God can and has often proven Himself to you. He proves it every day. Walk with Him. Commit your way to Him. Realize that He is walking with you. Micah 6:8 says,

"He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy and
to walk humbly with your God."

If you were always aware that God was with you, that He was alive and present, it would make a great difference in your life. Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote, (Spiritual Depression. p. 283. He attributed it to a Professor Whitehead)

"Religion is what a man does with his own solitude."

When you're alone, do you realize that God is with you and do you act accordingly? It should.

The fact that our God lives also means

we need to be careful how we live before Him.

Gareth Lee Cockerill says of the generation that perished in the wilderness, (Hebrews, NICNT; p. 184)

"God began his pronouncement of punishment by saying, 'As I live' (Num 14:21, 28). Thus their very exclusion from the land was proof that God was the powerful and trustworthy 'living' God."

Peter T. O'Brien says of God in the context of Numbers 14, (Hebrews, PNTC; p. 147)

"Although… he is slow to anger, abounding in love, and forgiving sin and rebellion (vv. 17-19), he is the living God who judges the unbelief and rebellion of the exodus generation (vv. 26-32). They had abandoned the living God, the one who stands over against lifeless idols (Jer. 10:5), who is the true God and everlasting King (10:10), and into whose hands it is a terrifying thing to fall…"

Later in Hebrews we read, (Hebrews 12:28–29)

"Therefore, since we are receiving
a kingdom that cannot be shaken,
let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably
with reverence and awe, for our 'God is a consuming fire.' "

Or as Jeremiah wrote, (Jeremiah 10:5–10)

"Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, their idols cannot speak;
they must be carried because they cannot walk.
Do not fear them; they can do no harm
nor can they do any good.
No one is like you, O Lord; you are great,
and your name is mighty in power.
Who should not revere you,
O King of the nations?
This is your due.
Among all the wise men of the nations
and in all their kingdoms, there is no one like you.
They are all senseless and foolish;
they are taught by worthless wooden idols.
Hammered silver is brought
from Tarshish and gold from Uphaz.
What the craftsman and goldsmith
have made is then dressed in blue and purple—
all made by skilled workers.
But the Lord is the true God;
he is the living God, the eternal King.
When he is angry, the earth trembles;
the nations cannot endure his wrath."

Our God is the living God. Make sure you walk with Him.