Is your heart hard against God? In this sixth lesson on Hebrews we'll learn about the Israelite's hard hearts that kept them from entering into Gods rest. It takes a humble heart to be saved.
When you were a child, what was your favorite story book?
Did you ever read The Little Engine That Could?
The Little Engine that Could is an illustrated children's book that was first published in the US in 1930. The story is used to teach children the value of optimism and hard work. Based on a 2007 online poll, the National Education Association named the book one of its "Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children."
While optimism and self-confidence are good things, there is a danger associated with the “I think I can” attitude that has been infused into the modern child’s mind for generations.
We've been told ever since we were tiny, that if we put our minds to it, we can be anything. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. I remember when I was young and I asked my Mom if I could be the President when I grew up. “Of course you can!” she told me. She didn't tell me that in my life there would only be about 12-16 presidents and hundreds of millions of Americans that could technically run for the office.
I will say it again; optimism and self-confidence are good things! But what we need to be careful of is adding to our sinful tendency to attempt to be self-sufficient. Parents want self-sufficient children. Christ DOES NOT want self-sufficient followers.
If we believe that we don’t need ANYTHING outside of a good work ethic and a positive go-getter attitude, then we at once harden our hearts to a Gospel that tells us we are rotten to the very core of who we are.
We harden our hearts to the word of God and Spirit of Truth that tells us that we CANNOT fix ourselves. Here's an important point we'll learn as we study Scripture today in our sixth lesson on Hebrews:
Before we can completely understand our scripture for today in this sixth lesson on Hebrews, we need to know a little Old Testament history. After the Jews were freed from Egypt, they wandered the wilderness for 40 years. In the wilderness the witnessed many miracles as God provided for His people.
Since there was nothing to eat he provided manna from heaven. When they grew tired of manna, He provided quail. For 40 years they wandered, yet their clothes and shoes did not wear out. When they ran out of water, God made water pour out of a rock.
Finally, they approached the edge of the Promised Land. Hundreds of years before, God promised to Abraham that He would make a great nation out of his offspring. This nation is the Jews wandering in the wilderness. He also promised to Abraham to provide a land that was fruitful and abundant. After all of their wandering, they finally were going to receive this Promised Land.
As they approached the land, it became clear that another group of people were already living there. God tells them to send in scouts to spy out the land. After the mission, 10 out of the 12 scouts believe that they were not strong enough to take the land. And amazingly enough, the people believe the 10 scared scouts!
Even after witnessing the incredible way that God freed them from Egypt, and then 40 years of witnessing God’s power in miracle after miracle, the people still doubted God and his ability to protect and save them.
So how does God respond?
God is understandably upset with the people. He wants to wipe them out and create a new nation. Moses pleads with God. God decides what He will do.
God punishes them. He tells Moses, because of their hard hearts and unbelief they will never enter the land. Instead, the next generation will be the ones to enter into the land.
God could have killed the people instantly because of their disobedience, and He, as a perfect judge, would have been righteous in doing so. But instead God had mercy on these people who had hard hearts. He lets them choose their own path, and they turned away from a good gift.
But, because of God’s perfect justice, His grace is temporary. They will never enter the good land. A day will come when they will die and face judgment.
This is a true account from thousands of years ago that parallels our story and study in this sixth lesson on Hebrews.
Gospel means good news. The good news of how you can be saved. But before we can be saved, we have to know what we need to be saved from. Or, in other words, this good news starts with bad news.
All of us have sinned, just like the Israelites from the story. As soon as we sinned and disobeyed God, we deserved death and punishment. You are only alive now because God allows it; and because God wants to give us time to turn back to Him.
Jonathan Edwards in his famous sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God said,
It's only because of Gods grace that you are breathing at this very moment. He lets you choose your own path turning away from good gifts of this life. Gifts that He wants to give to us. Peace, joy, fulfillment, satisfaction; these gifts can only be found in God.
But because God is a good judge He will not leave a crime unpunished. A day will come when you will die and face judgment. If your heart is hard and you do not have faith is Jesus and the task He accomplished on the cross, you will not enter into eternal communion with God. Instead, you will be excluded from the wonderful promises of God’s presence that He wants all of us to enter.
This is how the story ends for that generation of Jews. They perish separated from God’s promise. But this doesn’t HAVE to be how YOUR story ends. Let's get back to our Sixth Lesson on Hebrews.
The author's quoting a Psalm that was written about the account in Numbers. In verse 7 we can see that all of scripture has authority. Even though David wrote this Psalm, it was actually the Holy Spirit speaking through him.
Knowing the back-story makes it very clear that the author is warning his audience to not be like the Israelites that rebelled in the wilderness. It was that rebellious generation that did not enter into God’s “rest”.
The author warns them to not have a hard heart.
Because, a hard, unbelieving heart, is an evil heart.
If your heart is hard against God it means that you are disinterested in the instruction and guidance of the all-wise and all-powerful Creator of the universe.
A hard heart is selfish; focused only on seeking what it desires, what it believes will bring rest.
Verse 12, 11:
A hard heart separates you from God and his “rest”
Can there be any greater rest than rest for your soul? Rest in God? Do you have confidence in your salvation? Do you know that you and God are at peace with one another?
Do you want the peace and rest that comes from knowing that you have been reconciled, or made right, with God?
Jesus calls us to repentance; He commands us to turn away from our sin. This is our respectful and obedient response to His sacrifice. Jesus calls us away from sin because He hates it, and because sin hardens your heart even more. The more we indulge in our sin, the harder it is going to be for us to be willing to turn away from sin in order to be restored to God.
Confidence in your relationship with God can only come from Christ. This is what it means to place your faith in Him. Trust in Jesus for your salvation. Have confidence that His sacrifice was for you, and it's by His sacrifice that you can be saved. So, if we're already saved then we need to cling to Christ. And if you haven't been saved yet then listen to verse 15.
Today is repeated over and over in these verses. The author is trying to convey the urgency of the Gospel.
D.L. Moody was a preacher during the 19th century who lived in Chicago. For a time during his ministry, after he preached, he would tell the congregation to:
Then, late one Sunday night, after he had spoken those very words that morning, the Great Fire of Chicago of 1871 broke out.
After several days of burning, hundreds were dead, including some people who had been in D.L. Moody’s church that Sunday morning. D.L. Moody was overwhelmed by the shortness of life and the urgency of the gospel.
He no longer asked people to go home and think about the message. Instead he urged people,
Today, if you hear His voice, listen! If you feel the Father drawing you to Him then respond with obedience. Place your faith in Christ so that you can receive God’s grace. Then, out of humble obedience, turn away from your sin.
Remember, there are only two ways to respond to the call of God through the gospel; either, by hardening your heart, or humbling your heart.
It's hard to be humble. No one wants to be wrong. But unless you can admit that you are wrong, that you are corrupted by your sin, you cannot receive God’s forgiveness.
Unless you're humble and admit that you cannot save your self, that you need Christ to save you, then your heart will harden and God will release you to the consequences of your sin. You will not enter into His rest. You will be separated from Him for all of eternity.
So, be humble so you can receive His word.
God is the potter and we are the clay. In order to let God reshape you, you must first admit that you are misshapen. This requires humility.
If you hear his voice TODAY, be humble, not hard. Place your faith in Jesus Christ so that you can be saved and have confidence that on the day of your judgment God will let you enter into eternity with Him.