Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called “TODAY,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end (Heb. 3:12-14)
Our passage was written at a time when the faith of God’s people was about to be tested to the uttermost. The Roman’s were a few years from sacking Israel, laying siege to Jerusalem, and destroying the Temple. All of the ancient and familiar things that reminded them of God and their heritage were near to being gone forever. All they would have left was their personal faith in Christ and the mutual faith of one another.
According to Peter’s inspired account of Lot’s state of mind and heart, while living in Sodom, he was vexed by the filthy lifestyle of the people of that city (2 Pet. 2:7f). The word “vexed” is used twice in the passage and is a translation of two different Greek words, one meaning “to wear down” and the other “to torment.” The Lord delivered him out of this “temptation” by sending two angels to escort him out of the city as the fire of judgment prepared to fall.
A similar concept is found in Ezekiel where we read,
“And the LORD said to him, “Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and cry over all the abominations that are done within it” (Ezekiel 9:4 NKJV). There were saints who were so utterly vexed by what the Israelites were doing that they were sighing and crying as it was going on. Let that sink in a moment.
When we get cozy with the world and start listening to its propaganda we are in danger of being deceived. It is dangerous to know the word of God and then reject that word because of some passing gratification that sinning against that word offers. Understand that sin’s greatest danger is that it directly impacts our relationship with God. This is why Satan and his cohorts tempt the saints; they are trying to interrupt and destroy our relationship with God.
Hardness of Heart
We are called to “exhort one another day by day” so that we assist one another in our mutual struggle against the hardness of heart that scripture repeatedly warns about. Continuing in sin hardens a person towards God and the people of God until the process of “exhorting one another day by day” is viewed with suspicion, contempt, and hostility.
At first, there may be a subtle resistance to biblical standards, but that resistance will grow into full-on rebellion against God if left unchecked. This happens when people place themselves in contexts where they don’t have to respond to God’s dealings or hear the exhortations from Godly Saints that we all desperately need day by day. One of the great signs of backsliding is forsaking your Godly friends for more sinful ones. You are getting cozy with sin and it is hardening the heart.
A Route to Redemption
Personal revival begins when a person stops resisting the Holy Spirit and allows God to direct them in breaking up the fallow ground of their sin-hardened heart. “Hearing His voice” means to obey what God has said to us and is the opposite of hardening our hearts. Instead of allowing sin to make us resistant and rebellious towards the word of God, we are to allow the word of God to make us resistant to sin.
When rebellion and hardness are complete, a person can be almost unreachable. As James warned us,
“Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (James 1:15 NKJV). Death in the scripture ultimately means separation from God. They are hardened to the great warnings of scripture that speak to their sinful lifestyle. Like the rebellious Israelites of old, they rebuff or silence the prophetic voices that would challenge them and their sin. Simply put, they don’t want to hear it.
Sometimes these rebellious ones continue their influence in the churches. Like the ten spies with a bad report or the rebellious at Kadesh (Num. 13:1-26), their behavior destroys the faith of others. It destroys the progress of the churches. Their lifestyle militates against the very will of God for the Saints and His churches as their behavior normalizes sin among the people. The solution? Prevention.