Do you really believe what you say you believe?
7 Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says,
“Today if you hear His voice,
8 Do not harden your hearts as when they provoked Me,
As in the day of trial in the wilderness,
9 Where your fathers tried Me by testing Me,
And saw My works for forty years.
10 “Therefore I was angry with this generation,
And said, ‘They always go astray in their heart,
And they did not know My ways’;
11 As I swore in My wrath,
‘They shall not enter My rest.’”
12 Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
The deceitfulness of sin is a phrase I try to remember. I try to remember that sinfulness is deceitful and although it might seem like a good idea at the time, nothing truly good comes of it. Surely, we might get some instant gratification (something that drives our current generations), but in the end, nothing good results. There might be things that God uses to advance His kingdom or prove Himself to others, but let us never be deceived of the truth of sinfulness: it separates us from God.
The beginning of this chapter talked about falling out of the faith. Here, the author continues with a warning straight from Psalm 95. Since the last post, I’ve struggled with this idea of falling away from the faith and if it is really possible (as opposed to not really having faith in the first place). I realized that I have been, in this instance anyway, likening faith to salvation. If we cannot earn our salvation, we certainly cannot unearn it. Faith, however, is different. Faith is trusting in God, listening to what He says, and being obedient to it in order to live the life He designed you for. Can you fall out of faith? Absolutely! Just as much as we have a right to choose to trust God, He has also given us the ability not to.
We see in this example recalled of the Israelites, that despite all the wonders and provision and intense presence of God that surrounded them (remember, they were led through the desert by a pillar of smoke in the day and pillar of fire by night), they chose to not trust in God. Every moment of our lives we have the option to trust (put our faith in) God or try to do it ourselves. It’s exactly like the choice Adam and Eve had between the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The deceitfulness of sin would have us partake of the wrong tree, leaving us naked, scared, and hiding from the glory of God. However, when we eat of the Tree of Life (aka Jesus), we are in perfect communion with Him. What if there had been 5-10 other people around Adam and Eve who could exhort them with God’s truth to counter the lie of the devil? In John 14, Jesus reveals to us: 6 Jesus *said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. 7 If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.” Usually we look at this verse as a one-time salvation statement; rather it is an “ever moment” element of our spiritual growth and relationship with God.
This is why the author implores us to encourage one another day after day, so we don’t fall into this trap. Our flesh is weak in resisting sinfulness because it is strong in its desire. Sin is a powerful drug that we have become addicted to and the longer we have gone without resisting it, the more powerful it becomes. Just as drug addicts have difficulty kicking their destructive habits (regardless of how bad they want to get clean), we have a nasty sin habit that we cannot sober up from on our own. This isn’t some head knowledge we can carry around to point our fingers at others, this is advice given by a spiritual leader to be aware of for ourselves! What does the deceitfulness of sin do? It hardens our hearts. In Ezekiel 11 and again in Ezekiel 36 God talks about the hardening of Israel’s hearts as a result of disobedience and being deceived by the nations around them instead of staying steadfast on God. He mentions after He cleanses Israel of their sinfulness, He will replace their hardened hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. This signifies what happens to us when we remain in a state of sinfulness, our hearts harden as we continually turn away from God, even though mentally we know better.
Paul, Peter, and John in their various letters continually encourage their readers to stand firm in the faith. This always confused me until now, thinking that we couldn’t really fall out of faith. Salvation we have no control over. We are saved by faith through grace; God’s love, grace, and mercy has given us the ability to learn about Him and give Him our trust. Deitrich Bonhoeffer would say that if we truly believe in Christ as our Savior and understand its implications, then we would feel compelled to trust and follow Christ. But the enemy is constantly working against us because he knows if we live the way we are called to, then the Gospel will advance and the end nears for his reign on earth. We might start out “on fire for God” but the enemy continues to throw dirt on the flames and pull us away with distractions. If anything, we should constantly strive to carry out our God given purpose in order to end the existence of this sinful and broken world once and for all. We must remain vigilant and surround ourselves with fellow soldiers who will keep us from being deceived by sinfulness and thus hardening our hearts to God.