Pastor's Pondering


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Don't Be Like That

by Duane Mabee on August 9, 2018

See to it, brothers (and sisters), 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.  We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. (Heb. 3:12-14 NIV)


There are several challenging passages in the book of Hebrews, and this is one of them.  Just prior to this (3:7-11), the author of Hebrews reminds us of the Israelite’s unfaithfulness and rebellion, which kept them out of the Promised Land.  Then he tells us, “Don’t be like that!”  “Make sure that none of you have a sinful, unbelieving heart…”  William Barclay’s translation is a little loose, but it captures the sentiment of the passage and ties it to the example from ancient Israel.  He puts the verse, “Have a care, brothers, lest that evil and disobedient heart be in any of you in a state of rebellion against the living God.”  It hurts to have Barclay refer to us as having a “evil, disobedient and rebellious” heart, but that is what a heart that turns away from or ignores God is. 


The author is clearly warning Christians to guard their hearts, but the passage leaves some questions unanswered.  Whose heart are we trying to guard?  Is it our own, as verse 12 seems to indicate?  Or, are we to protect other Christians from developing this kind of heart, as verse 13 seems to indicate? 


The answer, of course is both, but don’t rush by the question too quickly.  Look at it from both angles.  How do you keep your own heart from becoming sinful and unbelieving?  Take some time to think that through.  How do you know if your heart is becoming sinful and unbelieving?  Can you know?  Then, think about how you can keep another believer’s heart from becoming sinful and unbelieving.  We have both the obligation and ability to help keep others from sliding into rebellion.


Look at the passage again.  The short answer to how we keep our hearts and the hearts of other believers from deteriorating into unbelief and rebellion is encouragement (exhortation).  The word has a strong emphasis on encouragement and walking alongside another person, but the idea of correction is there, too. 


One way we keep our own hearts spiritually healthy is by allowing other believers to encourage and correct us.  We must be open and receptive to what they have to say to us, about us – both the positive and the negative.  The way we help other believers stay spiritually healthy is by helping them see what they cannot see about themselves – both the positive and the negative.  How receptive are you to the personal input of other believers?  How willing are you to walk with other believers to strengthen and encourage them?  The answers to those two questions will have eternal consequences.