26 September 2006

Individual Perseverance is a Community Project, Part Two

Why should we take care?

"12Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called "today," that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14For we share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end." (Hebrews 3:12-14 ESV).

"12Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.

Although we should exhort our spiritual Americans "to take care lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God," notice that this is not to whom he is addressing this.  I believe this is essentially important.  To whom is the addressing this exhortation to "take care"?  The verse is addressed, as in casual observer can see, to the "brothers."  Or, it might be more helpful to just say that he is writing this to believers, to Christians, to the Church.  That's a massive thing to warn the Church of Jesus Christ to take care. 

Can you recall any text in Hebrews which seems to imply this text is for believers?  Hebrews chapter 6 comes to my mind, "4For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6if they then fall away, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt." (Hebrews 6:4-6 ESV).  So let's be jarred when we read, "Take care, brothers.  Take care, sisters.  Take care, Christians."  Because, the writer is absolutely serious when he warns us to take care.

The care is toward "an evil, unbelieving heart."  And the caution is not just for right now, but he says "lest there be."  There's an even more startling idea than there might be in me an evil and unbelieving heart that leads me to fall away.  In Greek, the verb translated "there be" is in the future tense, "lest there will be."  There could be in the future, an evil, unbelieving heart in you that is leading and will lead you away from God.  It could be dormant, biding its time.  It could be influencing your choices, the thoughts that you think, the words that you speak, the actions you produce all for the purpose of leading you away from God.

The author warns, "Take care!"  And, he spends all of the book of Hebrews trying to get you to take care.  He paints the picture of our sin in separating us from God.  He warns of the wrath of the living God bearing down on us.  He exults in the Son of God, God of very God, coming down into a man and bearing the wrath of that sin as our Great High Priest.  He pleads with these believers to rest, not in their works, but in the perfection of Jesus Christ downloaded to us to become our right standing before God.  He encourages us, since God is a God of forgiveness toward sinners, to approach the throne of grace boldly clothed in that alien perfection.  And he tells us that Christ suffered just like we did.  He knows what we're going through, and is able to keep us from falling.  There's no more wrath of God for you, he satisfied it all.  Take care not to let your heart lead you away from this Great High Priest at a throne of grace offering you rest.

The last thing that American spirituality does is take care.  There is no concern of the danger.  There is no impending sense of doom that there might be a God out there whom we may have offended.  More than that, we must take care that we receive this God.  He is the supreme good of our souls.  And any spirituality, religion, or path that leads away from Him is not only damning to our souls, but it is robbing of our potential happiness.  Happiness is in the right hand of the Father of Jesus Christ, and our hearts would lead us any where but to Him.  So take care!


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