The following is a summary and commentary of a sermon that I presented to Akron Alliance Fellowship Church in 2006.
Last week we were in Hebrews Chapter 3 learning about the relationship between Jesus Christ and us. We learned that Jesus Christ was appointed by God to be in charge of His household, which refers to all of us within the body of Christ, and His church. God created all of us, and Jesus was put in charge of us by His divine appointment.
Therefore, holy brothers and companions in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession; He was faithful to the One who appointed Him, just as Moses was in all God’s household. For Jesus is considered worthy of more glory than Moses, just as the builder has more honor than the house. Now every house is built by someone, but the One who built everything is God. Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s household, as a testimony to what would be said [in the future]. But Christ was faithful as a Son over His household, whose household we are if we hold on to the courage and the confidence of our hope.
There is a role for all of us within God’s household that we must be mindful of, however, and that important piece of our relationship within Jesus Christ is revealed here beginning in Hebrews 3:6 where it states “But Christ was faithful as a Son over His household, whose household we are IF WE HOLD ON TO THE COURAGE AND THE CONFIDENCE OF OUR HOPE.” Some manuscripts add the words “Hope in Christ” or “firm to the end.” So it is our responsibility, as members of God’s family, in the body of Christ, within our church and in our Christian community, for us to hold onto the courage and confidence of our hope for the rest of our lives in Christ Jesus. It is by doing this that we remain as members in “good standing” within His household. What do I mean by members in “good standing”? Well, you can be a member of an organization, but as a member there are certain things (at the very least minimum requirements must be met) that must be done within the organization in order to fulfill the terms and conditions of your membership. Members that do these things are regarded as members in “good standing.” If one fails to meet these requirements, it does not mean that your membership is automatically cancelled or that you were being kicked out of the group, but it does mean that you may be a member “not in good standing.” You can also be a member of the body of Christ, God’s family, and yet you are not doing the things that God would have you to do. Here is where your relationship with God may be tenuous. God has one standard for all of us to meet, and if we fail to meet that standard, our membership is classified as “not in good standing.” God does not cancel our salvation or break His promises to us. If we are not in good standing it is because we have failed Him or broken our promises to Him when we accepted Christ.
We fail God, and yet He does not fail us. We fail Him because all too often we succumb to the temptations of the flesh, the world we live in, and we put God in a place far removed from first place in our lives. We fail to obey His laws and precepts and we fall victim to our own selfish desires…pridefulness, jealousy, envy, anger with sinful behavior. No, we don’t lose our membership in God’s family, but we systematically remove ourselves from God’s fellowship because we find the ways of the devil as more attractive. All of this occurs because we fail to listen to what He has to say to us.
In Hebrews 3:7, this is exactly why the voice that we are to listen to, in the form of the Holy Spirit, makes a strong and firm declaration.
Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the desert, where your fathers tested Me, tried [Me], and saw My works for 40 years. Therefore I was provoked with this generation and said, “They always go astray in their hearts, and they have not known My ways.” So I swore in My anger, “They will not enter My rest.”
We need to listen to His voice, and not just listen, but also trust in His voice. We get ourselves in trouble because of our inconsistency in trusting in Him and our failure to truly believe in Him. We are distracted all too easily by the flesh.
Why do we fail to believe in Him? We show a lack of courage versus the world.
Courage is the ability to act on what we know is right and good, and to dare to do what we should or must. While fear paralyzes, it is courage that helps us move ahead.
The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom should I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom should I be afraid?
Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand.
We lack confidence in God and who He is in our lives. Confidence has many meanings. It also can imply our level of faith, our level of hope, and our level of trust in Him. Note that I refer to having confidence in Jesus Christ and not just confidence in us, which is completely different.
The other reason why we don’t listen to His voice is that we listen to other voices. We have been studying in Sunday school about our first enemy who is all-powerful…the flesh. We can never allow the flesh to get the upper hand.
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, so that you obey its desires. And do not offer any parts of it to sin as weapons for unrighteousness. But as those who are alive from the dead, offer yourselves to God, and all the parts of yourselves to God as weapons for righteousness. For sin will not rule over you, because you are not under law but under grace.
Pride creates an adversarial relationship with God.
Come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, the sheep under His care. Today, if you hear His voice: “Do not harden your hearts as at Meribah, as on that day at Massah in the wilderness where your fathers tested Me; they tried Me, though they had seen what I did. For 40 years I was disgusted with that generation; I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray; they do not know My ways.’ So I swore in My anger, ‘They will not enter My rest.’ ”
Anger must be subdued.
In the course of time Cain presented some of the land’s produce as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also presented [an offering]—some of the firstborn of his flock and their fat portions. The Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but He did not have regard for Cain and his offering. Cain was furious, and he was downcast. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you furious? And why are you downcast? If you do right, won’t you be accepted? But if you do not do right, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must master it.”
We are to avoid these failures and heed the warnings in Hebrews 3 and 4. Notice the emphasis–in triplicate–within these Scriptures to bring the point home:
Hebrews 3:7-8, 14-15, 4:7
Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the desert…For we have become companions of the Messiah if we hold firmly until the end the reality that we had at the start. As it is said: Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion…again, He specifies a certain day—today—speaking through David after such a long time, as previously stated: Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.
In Hebrews 4:7, the emphasis is not to put off listening tomorrow (which is the response that the flesh will always present to you when it is time to make a decision). The importance of doing it today as referenced means “DO IT NOW!” Today is the day, not tomorrow, not next week, not when you get older and more settled in…today!!!
We run away from God when our life is not right. Look at the evidence of this in Genesis 3:8-11:
Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and they hid themselves from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. So the Lord God called out to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.” Then He asked, “Who told you that you were naked? Did you eat from the tree that I had commanded you not to eat from?”
God ignores no one. He knows each and every one of us, and we cannot and will not escape His judgment.
For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as to divide soul, spirit, joints, and marrow; it is a judge of the ideas and thoughts of the heart. No creature is hidden from Him, but all things are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account.
Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I stand up; You understand my thoughts from far away. You observe my travels and my rest; You are aware of all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, You know all about it, Lord.
Watch your thoughts and heed your actions.
You can fool others with your false sincerity.
You can even try to fool yourself.
God will not be fooled.
Turn your heart to Him, and give it all that you’ve got!
But from there, you will search for the Lord your God, and you will find [Him] when you seek Him with all your heart and all your soul.
What about overcoming a lack of courage or the lack of confidence?
Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
We are commanded by God to do this. Listen to His command. Remain faithful to the end.