I begain a short series of posts yesterday, based on Hebrews 3. In the series I’m exploring some of the concepts that the Western church has traditionally held about faith, sin in the life of a believer, and other related stuff. You can find the first post here. Here’s the main passage I’ve been looking at so far…
Hebrews 3 – 12 See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. 14 We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.
Today I want to explore the idea of “turn away from the living God.” It’s clear that the writer is speaking to believers and warning us not to allow ourselves into a place that we will turn away from the living God. But what exactly does that mean? Is it loss of our eternal salvation? If not, to what extent does it go?
The condition that brings about this turning away is a “sinful, unbelieving heart.” I have to admit that a phrase like that describes me from time to time. Any time I am consumed with my agenda, my comfort, my desires – I could very appropriately be said to have a sinful, unbelieving heart. The sinful part is pretty obvious, as selfishness is the root of sinful behavior. But the unbelieving heart part may be a bit more difficult to grasp. Let’s wade into it a bit…
If what I’ve described can be categorized as “unbelieving,” how is it so? The Christian life is based on faith in God through Jesus Christ. That’s not only for salvation, but for the living of life. Galatians 2:20 and other passages make it clear that we live by faith in the Son of God. That means that our agenda should be HIS agenda. Our desires should be HIS desires. Our loyalty and first priority should be what HE has directed them to be. Every day, and every moment of every day needs to be consumed with the pursuit of Jesus’ goals for our lives, NOT our own. Any diversion from that can rightly be said to be an act of “unbelief.”
At this point I must confess that the writing and speaking of John Piper has impacted me greatly in my view of what this “turning away” might entail. John says that the core of our depravity (our sinfulness) is that we “prefer other things over God.” Of course, what we prefer in place of God could be as varied as the interests of individual people, but the issue is that we are wanting, desiring, caring for, pursuing other things over and above the living God. I think we can all very rightly see that this is “turning away from the living God.” Every time we consider our agenda instead of His, every time we are vying for our comfort instead of His purpose and plan for us, we are being tempted by our sinful, unbeleiving heart to turn away from our living God. So there is a very real sense that most of us “turn away” daily. We launch into pleasures, ambitions, and endeavors that are more precious to us than our God, at least for the moment.
While the warning could be inferring something more lasting or eternal that is lost when we “turn away” I don’t think it has to of necessity. This daily turning away is dangerous enough to warrant the stern kind of warning we have here. It appears that the writer is telling us that the more we turn way, the more we are hardened, and we are hardened because we are deceived. Sin, though pleasurable for a season, deceives us into thinking that IT is what we need, that IT has what will satisfy, that IT will fufill our longings. But the truth is that only the goodness that is our God can do those things. Such a deception will lead us to a hardened state where we don’t even notice or care that we are “turning away from the living God.”
One remedy the author gives us is encouragement from other believers. Given the malady that the encouragement is to cure, this has to be more than simply, “My, you look great today!” It has to be an encouragement on a more spiritual level, an encouragement to remember, refocus, and reaffirm our commitment to Christ and HIS plan for our lives.
I think I’ll write more on this encouragement later… until then, feel free to interact…
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