Hebrews 3:13(2)

Sermon preached on August 27, 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.

When I was growing up I remember sometimes seeing freshly laid sidewalk with footprints in it, or names written in it, or hand prints or drawings. I never understood why people would mar a sidewalk like that but there were certain kids that when they saw a sidewalk being poured, would wait until all the workers left and then go and mess up the smooth sidewalk. Once the concrete hardened overnight—the mess was permanent. The only way to really fix it would be to tear up the concrete and start over.

If you're using certain types of glue it's important that you follow the instructions regarding how long it takes the glue to harden. If you're using super glue, you can't pour out a few drops of glue, and then go and talk on the phone for five minutes and come back and expect to continue. No, the glue will harden. You have to put the pieces you're going to glue together fairly quickly.

Like concrete,

sin hardens.

Our text says, (Hebrews 3:12–13)

"See to it, brothers,
that none of you has a sinful,
unbelieving heart that
turns away from the living God.
But encourage one another daily,
as long as it is called Today,
so that none of you
may be hardened
by sin's deceitfulness."

It's the nature of sin to harden people. When people are hardened in sin they are obstinate, stubborn. They are oblivious to or resistant to reproofs are rebukes. You can talk to them about their bad behavior and they are not open to changing it. It reminds me of the Old Testament expression where God called the Israelites 'stiff-necked'.

Nathan the prophet thought that David was hardened in sin when the Lord sent him to rebuke David. David had committed adultery and murder and he hadn't repented of those sins. You'll remember how Nathan approached David. His approach was cautious. Rather than immediately rebuking David, Nathan came at David in a round about way. Nathan told David a story about a poor man and a rich man and how the rich man stole and slaughtered the one lamb that the poor man had.

Why did Nathan do that? He did it because he suspected that sin had hardened David. He was afraid if he started off by rebuking David for his sin David would put him to death. So Nathan told him the story first. David burned with anger toward the rich man and said that he deserved to die, that he must pay for the lamb four times over, (2 Samuel 12:6)

"because he did such a thing
and had no pity."

It was only then that Nathan rebuked David. He boldly said to David,

"You are the man!"

Nathan survived. But many of the Old Testament prophets who rebuked the people did not. Why? Because the people were hardened in their sin. When God sent prophets to bring the people back the people killed the prophets because they stubbornly refused to let go of their sin. Their hearts were hard.

The NIDNTTE says of this word's use in the Old Testament, , ("Σ,", 4:313)

"Spiritual hardening, acc. to the OT understanding, results from the fact that sinners persist in shutting themselves to God's call and command. A state then arises in which they are no longer able to hear and in which they are irretrievably enslaved. Alternatively, God makes the hardening final, so that the people affected cannot escape from it."

We see this in Pharaoh when Moses confronted him with God's command to let the Israelites go. We read that Pharaoh hardened his heart. (Exodus 8:15) He dug in and resisted Moses as much as he could. He persisted in his sin and become more and more determined to keep the Israelites in slavery. It was after that that the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart. (Exodus 9:12)

We see another example in the life of King Asa. His reign stared out well. He was a great example of someone who relied on the Lord's power. In 2 Chronicles 14:11 he went out to battle and called to God. He said,

"LORD, there is no one like you to
help the powerless against the mighty.
Help us, O LORD our God,
for we rely on you,
and in your name we have come
against this vast army.
O LORD, you are our God;
do not let man prevail against you."

God gave him a great victory. Yet, later in his reign he stopped relying on the Lord. He relied on an alliance with the Syrians. God sent the seer Hanani to rebuke King Asa. Hanani uttered that great truth, (2 Chronicles 16:9)

"For the eyes of the LORD
range throughout the earth
to strengthen those whose hearts
are fully committed to him.
You have done a foolish thing,
and from now on you will be at war."

King Asa became enraged at Hanani and put him in prison. His heart then became hard. We read, (2 Chronicles 16:12)

"In the thirty-ninth year of his reign
Asa was afflicted
with a disease in his feet.
Though his disease was severe,
even in his illness
he did not seek help from the LORD,
but only from the physicians."

Sin hardens.

In the New Testament this word's usage is the same. The NIDNTTE says in New Testament it is, (" Σ,", 4:314)

"always in its distinctive LXX sense. We read in Acts 19:9 that some of the Jews in Ephesus, when they heard Paul preach in the synagogue…'were hardened and did not believe' (NIV, 'became obstinate; they refused to believe'; NRSV, 'stubbornly refused to believe'), and they openly abused his teaching."

Sin hardens. Many of those who rejected Jesus' teaching continued to do so even after they saw Him perform great miracles—casting out demons, healing those who were crippled, giving sight to the blind and raising the dead. They were so hardened in sin that they were unmoved by these great wonders.

As a Christian, we have to be careful that we are not deceived and hardened by sin.

The writer of Hebrews is warning Christians to beware of sin's deceitfulness. He's warning us not to be like those in the wilderness who hardened their hearts and so were prevented by God from entering the promised land. William L. Lane calls our text, (Hebrews 1–8, WBC 47A; p. 90)

"a serious call to persevering discipleship."

To keep us from getting hardened by sin we need to understand some things.

First of all,

you need to know that sin is deceitful.

We looked at this last week. The specific deception in Hebrews 3 refers back to was the bad report that the 10 spies brought back that discouraged the people. Verses 7 through 11 tell us about the subsequent rebellion that took place. When 10 of the 12 spies gave a bad report—the people raised their voices and started weeping. They grumbled against Moses and Aaron and said it would have been better if they had died in Egypt. They totally lost faith in God's promises. They said, (Numbers 14:3)

"Why is the Lord bringing us
to this land only
to let us fall by the sword?
Our wives and children
will be taken as plunder.
Wouldn't it be better for us
to go back to Egypt?"

Sin deceived them by making them afraid. Rather than going by God's promises they looked at things from a human perspective. William L. Lane writes, (Hebrews 1–8, WBC 47A; p. 90)

"The fundamental failure of the desert generation was their refusal to believe that God was actually present among them, directing them through his word. Refusing to acknowledge his presence and voice, they forfeited the possibility of entrance into God's rest. In calling attention to their fate, the writer warns the community not to lose faith in the presence of God with them that is celebrated whenever the word of God is read or the gospel tradition is proclaimed."

Sin deceived them. They thought that they were going to be defeated and their wives and children taken as plunder. Sin deceived them.

This was a huge mistake on their part. They failed to trust God. They failed to trust His word. They should have seen things with spiritual eyes, eyes that discerned God's support for His people. They should have been like the prophet Elisha, who, when his servant was frightened when he saw the Syrian army surrounding the city, ran to Elisha and asked him what they were going to do. We read, (2 Kings 6:16–17)

" 'Don't be afraid,
the prophet answered.'
Those who are with us are more
than those who are with them.'
And Elisha prayed,
open his eyes so he may see.
Then the LORD opened the servant's eyes,
and he looked and saw
the hills full of horses and
chariots of fire all around Elisha."

The second thing to need to understand in order not ton become hardened is that

you need to have great trust in God's promises.

We are not to be like the Israelites who heard the report of the spies. R. Kent Hughes writes, (Hebrews Volume 1: An Anchor for the Soul, Preaching the Word; p. 100)

"the hardening that took place in the wilderness was rooted in unbelief.""It was a fair-weather, herd-instinct faith—good until the first trial, when it dissolved in unbelief."

Although they knew about Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph—they didn't have nearly as many examples as we do. That was no excuse for them—but, for us, we have so many more examples.

We know about how God delivered against seemingly impossible odds. We know about Gideon and how he defeated the Midianites, how David defeated Goliath, how the angel of the Lord protected Jerusalem from the Assyrians. We know about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and how God protected them from the fiery furnace, how God protected Daniel in the lion's den.

If you trust in God you can do what He calls you to do. Your attitude should be the same as the psalmist in Psalm 18:28–35,

"You, O LORD,
keep my lamp burning;
my God turns my darkness into light.
With your help I can advance
against a troop;
with my God I can scale a wall.
As for God, his way is perfect;
the word of the LORD is flawless.
He is a shield for all
who take refuge in him.
For who is God besides the LORD?
And who is the Rock except our God?
It is God who arms me with strength
and makes my way perfect.
He makes my feet like the feet of a deer;
he enables me to stand on the heights.
He trains my hands for battle;
my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
You give me your shield of victory,
and your right hand sustains me;
you stoop down to make me great."

Sin deceived the people who heard the report of the spies and hardened them. Moses and Aaron fell down in front of the whole assembly while Joshua and Caleb encouraged the assembly to trust in God's promises and not to be afraid. They reminded them that God was with them and that the protection of the people in the land was gone. But they didn't listen to Joshua and Caleb. We read, (Numbers 14:10–11)

"But the whole assembly
talked about stoning them.
Then the glory of the Lord appeared
at the Tent of Meeting
to all the Israelites.
The Lord said to Moses,
How long will these people
treat me with contempt?
How long will they refuse to believe in me,
in spite of all the miraculous signs
I have performed among them?"

R. Kent Hughes writes, (Hebrews Volume 1: An Anchor for the Soul, Preaching the Word; p.. 101)

"Hardness of heart originates in unbelief, which produces contempt for God, which in turn shows itself in distinct behavioral patterns—namely, negativism, grumbling, quarreling and disobedience."

This is important to realize. Unbelief and lack of trust in God is the root cause. It's interesting after God told the people they were going to wander in the wilderness for 40 years some of them changed their minds about going up and taking possession of the land. They went up against the Lord's command and were defeated and driven back. The root of their problem was disobedience to God. They didn't trust God.

In our text then author of Hebrews is warning Christians not to forfeit God's promises. Don't let sin deceive you. William L. Lane writes, (Hebrews 1–8, WBC 47A; p. 89)

"A major theme in Hebrews is that Christians are the people of God who, like the generation in the desert, experience the tensions of an interim existence between redemption and rest, between promise and fulfillment."

Christians, trust God. Don't let sin desensitize you. The first time you someone commits a particular sin, it will bother their conscience. But the second time they do it—it doesn't bother them as much. By the third or fourth time doing it is like second nature to them and it has ceased to bother their consciences at all. 1 Timothy 4:2 refers to,

"hypocritical liars, whose consciences
have been seared as with a hot iron."

Their consciences have been seared by sin so that it no longer bothers them. That's can be a part of hardening.

Don't be stubborn in your sin. As sinners we one of the crazy things we sometimes do is persist in sinful behavior. You see it in individuals. Sometimes someone has chosen sin and yet sin hasn't delivered what it promised. Rather than recognizing the deceitfulness of sin they persist in the sin—waiting for the payoff that is never going to come.

People don't like to admit they're wrong and sometimes they refuse to admit it even when it's clear they've been wrong. I find it disturbing when it's proven that a person in prison is innocent and yet the District Attorney's office refuses to release him. It's happened in a few cases. They don't want to admit that the system failed. In spite of all the evidence they want the person to remain behind bars.

It's the same way with certain sinners. If someone has chosen sin and if sin hasn't delivered—they're still waiting for sin to deliver on its promises. They become hardened in their sin. R. Kent Hughes writes, (Hebrews Volume 1: An Anchor for the Soul, Preaching the Word; p. 100)

"Thus we understand that the pathology of a hard heart originates in unbelief that spawns a hardened contempt and, as we shall see, a hardness that works out in sinful disobedience."

William L. Lane adds, (Hebrews 1–8, WBC 47A; p. 87)

"sin is conceived as an agent that deceives and leads an individual to an irretrievably hopeless position. In this context ἁμαρτία, 'sin,' has a specific connotation. It is the sin of refusing to obey God and to act upon his promise…"

I've always been intrigued by points of no return. For example, if you put a row boat in the river above Niagara Falls, there's a point above the falls, where if you cross it, you and your boat are going to go over the falls. If you're a mile or two upriver from the falls, you can easily row to the shore and you won't get swept over the falls. But if you're close to the falls, there's a point that if you cross, you won't be able to get to shore and row upstream.

Sin is like that. It has a point of no return. After a certain point it hardens.

As a Christian you should hate sin. Don't think you can indulge in it and not become hardened in it. You might prove yourself reprobate. Don't tempt God by indulging in sin. Hate sin. Hate temptation. Resist it by the power of God.

Lastly, how wonderful it is that God's grace through Jesus Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit—

breaks the hardness of sin.

Sin would always harden us. We all passed the point of no return as far as our power not to be hardened by sin. It had us. But God reached down and softened our hearts. How wonderful His grace is that he broke the hardness of our hearts.

What a Savior we have. What love He has for us. Rejoice in Him. Thank Him. Praise Him.