Chapter 3:12-19 (ESV) - Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”
For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.
Question to consider: Why were they in danger of falling away from the living God?
Exhort one another every day! The author understood that falling away doesn’t happen overnight. As we are deceived by sin, our hearts slowly become calloused to the convicting voice of the Holy Spirit. One question I get from people is whether I believe scripture teaches the idea of “once-saved, always saved,” meaning that once someone is saved by God, can they somehow lose that salvation? I don’t think it’s the right question to be asking though. On the one hand, there is no single sinful act we can do which will negate our salvation. As we talked about in chapter 2, Christ became one of us so he understands our temptations and still chose to die for our sins. So if you have sinned and fallen short of His glory, confess your sins, and God who is faithful and just will forgive your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness.
On the other hand, the author makes clear in this passage that if our hearts become hardened to the point of unbelief, we are in danger of falling away from God. Answering an altar call or entering the waters of baptism doesn’t give you a license to reject God with your life. Over time, the continual pursuit to fulfill the desires of the flesh above God sears our consciences and ultimately can result in someone walking away from the faith. James', the brother of Jesus, puts it this way, "...each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death." (James 1:14-15)
So what is the right question? I think it’s something to the effect of, “Do I have a sincere faith in Jesus?” The key is to then examine ourselves: our motives, our desires and our actions to see where our allegiance lies. If we are not happy with what we find, the answer is not merely to try harder. We start by sowing seeds of righteousness in our life.
As Paul said in our study of Galatians (chapter 6:7-8), “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” Your desire for things of this world starts to diminish as you grow in the grace and knowledge of God through the study of His word, through prayer, and through the fellowship of other believers. A daily Bible study like this one is certainly a good place to begin.
Lord God, we thank you for forgiving us when we sin, but do not let our hearts get hardened against you or the things you love. Help us to love your word. Set our hearts on heavenly things so we don’t get discouraged or distracted by a fallen world. It’s so easy to let time slip away. Help us to redeem it in your name. Amen.