Sermon: Unbelief, the Deadly Sin (Hebrews 3:7-19)

Unbelief, the Deadly Sin

Hebrews 3:7-19 (ESV)

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,

“Today, if you hear his voice,

[8] do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,

on the day of testing in the wilderness,

[9] where your fathers put me to the test

and saw my works  [10] for forty years.

Therefore I was provoked with that generation,

and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart;

they have not known my ways.’

[11] As I swore in my wrath,

‘They shall not enter my rest.’ “

[12] Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.  [13] 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.  [14] For we share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.  [15] As it is said,

“Today, if you hear his voice,

do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”

[16] For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses?  [17] And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness?  [18] And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient?  [19] So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.

Introduction

In the first section of Bunyan’s work Pilgrim’s Progress, we are introduced to a man who lacks faith and conviction.  His name is Obstinate. John Bunyan names his characters after their character.

Obstinate- perversely adhering to an opinion, purpose, or course in spite of reason, arguments, or persuasion <obstinate resistance to change>

In his story, Christian tries to convince Obstinate that their city is about to experience wrath from God and will soon be destroyed and the answer is in the book he holds in his hands.  Rather than listening, Obstinate considers Christian mentally unbalanced and returns home rather than looking for the truth.

Bunyan’s portrays of Obstinate as an opinionated, hard-hearted individual.  One who is obstinate is a grumbler and a complainer.  This person is marked by a lack of faith.

In the OT, we read about a whole generation of people who could be referred to as Obstinate.  This generation saw the Lord ravish the land of Egypt with one plague after another.  They saw the Red Sea split down the middle and then once they crossed, swallow the Egyptians.  They saw the manna literally rain from heaven.  They saw water flow from a rock.  They saw the cloud by day and the pillar of fire at night leading them to safety.  In the midst of these great and wondrous miracles they were characterized by grumbling and complaining.

The danger of complaining to God is that there comes a time when His longsuffering ends.  God’s patience with man finally reaches an end.  Often God simply will give us what we want.  That’s exactly what He did with the generation of Israelites who left Egypt.

Numbers 14:2 (ESV)

And all the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness!

Numbers 14:29 (ESV)

your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness, and of all your number, listed in the census from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against me,

They endlessly complained to Moses about their circumstances.  They were not a joyful bunch.  They were really complaining and grumbling against God.  For us today, we should see that God equates grumbling with rebellion.

Truth Taught:

Unbelief manifests itself in a person’s life as grumbling and complaining.  As believers we must battle unbelief individually and as a church.

1. Do Not Harden Your Hearts (Hebrews 3:7-11)

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,

“Today, if you hear his voice,

[8] do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,

on the day of testing in the wilderness,

[9] where your fathers put me to the test

and saw my works  [10] for forty years.

Therefore I was provoked with that generation,

and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart;

they have not known my ways.’

[11] As I swore in my wrath,

‘They shall not enter my rest.’ “

To begin with, we must see together that even though Psalm 95 was penned by King David, the ultimate author, just like with all of Scripture, is the Holy Spirit.  He caused David to write this for a purpose.

In Exodus and Numbers we have the account of the rebellion.  Murmuring and grumbling marked the generation that God rescued from Egyptian slavery.  Through David in Psalm 95, the Holy Spirit warns God’s people.  He says, do not be like them.  Do not harden your hearts, do not test God, do not go astray in your hearts, seek to know God’s ways.  The original account in Numbers shows the rebellion.  Then in Psalm 95, we’re told not to be like that generation who rebelled against Moses.  The writer of Hebrews and Paul to the Corinthian Church says that this was recorded for our benefit.

1 Cor. 10:1-11 (ESV)

I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea,  [2] and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea,  [3] and all ate the same spiritual food,  [4] and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.  [5] Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.

[6] Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.  [7] Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.”  [8] We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day.  [9] We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents,  [10] nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer.  [11] Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.

The Lord does not want us to be the way they were.  As His children we must believe and live in that belief.

Why does the writer of Hebrews place this text from Psalm 95 in the Book of Hebrews?  He is showing us that it was a terrible thing to reject Moses.  For that generation to reject Moses cost them their lives.  To be lead out of slavery by the one God had sent and then to reject him would cost them everything.  He adds this to the Book of Hebrews to show us that there lies an even greater danger.  Jesus is greater than Moses.  So to reject Christ is far worse and will meet with an even greater act of God’s wrath than to reject Moses because Christ is superior to Moses.  So the writer quotes from the Psalm to show us the seriousness of rejecting Jesus.

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,

“Today, if you hear his voice,

[8] do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,

IF…is a very big word sometimes.  Today…if.  This means that you might not hear His voice.  There are people on this planet that will never hear His voice.  But if you do hear it, don’t reject it, don’t ignore it, but listen and obey.  Do not harden your hearts.

Is there something in your heart, in your inner being that is saying, come to Christ? Is there a still small voice that is telling you to obey God’s Word?  This is the Holy Spirit speaking.  Maybe there is something that you have been putting off.  Maybe God has a ministry for you in this church and you’ve heard the Holy Spirit over and over again and for some reason you’ve not acted on what you know is right.  This is hardening your heart.  There may come a day, just like it came in the wilderness, when the Holy Spirit goes silent.

Perhaps the Spirit has been pleading with you to be saved from your sin.  Maybe you’ve felt His gentle nudging and heard His still small voice.  Perhaps you’ve thought that there is something you must do first.  This text clearly says, Today…

If you hear His voice, do it today.  Don’t reason your way into disobedience.  If you hear His voice, obey.

You don’t have all the answers but if God is moving listen and act because salvation is by grace through faith not by grace through logic.  If the Holy Spirit is pleading with you, repent and believe the Gospel.

2. The Church’s Call to Battle Unbelief

[12] Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.  [13] 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.  [14] For we share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.  [15] As it is said,

“Today, if you hear his voice,

do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”

[16] For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses?  [17] And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness?  [18] And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient?  [19] So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.

I want us all to see the urgency here.  We are to be presently doing this.  Today, we are to be caring for our souls in such a way as to block out unbelief.

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

These words might lead us to believe that we might wake up one day and discover we’ve fallen away.  However, this is an intentional rebellion that wars in our hearts.  The battle rages between believing God and walking in His ways and not believing and looking back and longing to be there.

Acts 7:39 (ESV)

Our fathers refused to obey him, but thrust him aside, and in their hearts they turned to Egypt,

These people were freed from slavery and watching miracles and being led by God’s prophet to the Promised Land.  They were grumbling every step of the way.  What is it that promotes discontent and grumbling?  We’re clearly told that it is unbelief.

What the writer wants us to see is that in this battle with unbelief we are not alone.  As the church we must encourage each other, today.

[13] 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.  [14] For we share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.

To exhort one another every day is to urge and to advise in faith.  We are to plead with each other.  When we go through trials, a healthy church will be urging the one enduring the trial to believe God is at work.  The church is to encourage belief in its members.  The church is given the Divine responsibility to encourage and advise in faith.  We are to be strengthening one another’s faith.

In the next few months, Lord willing, we will begin our small group ministry.  The goal of the small groups is not heavy Bible study.  I feel we get that on Sundays.  What we need to be an effective church is significant biblical fellowship.  In the small group setting we will come together for encouragement, prayer, fellowship and a light Bible study.  The small group will also be the means by which we can do consistent evangelism.  Inviting your lost family and friends to your group will be a great step toward inviting to the church.

Battling unbelief is not only a war the individual is engaged in but it’s a war the whole church must fight.

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.

To begin with, it’s important to understand ourselves well.  If we are to apply the Word for the good of our souls, how do we specifically apply it to encourage faith and discourage grumbling?  What is going on in our thinking when we begin to grumble and complain?

Lies Grumblers Believe…

A. My life should be free from difficulties

We are creatures of comfort.  We think everything should just be exactly like we want it to be.  When it ends up different, we begin to grumble.

-God, on the other hand, wants difficulties to be in our lives.  Through these challenges, He is completing the work Christ started.  We are being made into the image of Christ through suffering.

-We can cultivate belief through a trial if we know God is making us more like Christ.  The church can help by giving us comfort and by exhorting us during these times.  We are called to believe and trust.

The Israelites left Egypt and came up to the Red Sea.  The Egyptian army was bearing down hard on them.  They had chariots, swords, spears, bows, and new how to fight.  The Hebrews knew bricks.  They came to the banks of the Red Sea and couldn’t even run away any more.  God placed that obstacle in their way.  This was an obstacle that they could not handle apart from God.  God performed His mighty work and He got the glory.

B. I’m in charge of my own life

When we grumble, we are living without trusting in God.  We think our lives can be lived without trust and dependence on God.  We don’t think that we are finite and God is infinite.  For some reason we think we can handle every situation through our reason and natural abilities.  A grumbler forgets about grace.  We should embrace human weakness because it points to an all-sufficient Savior.  When we fail we can be reminded by faith that there is One who has never failed and He is my Redeemer.

2 Cor. 12:9 (ESV)

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

C. I can find happiness in creation rather than in the Creator

The grumbler believes life can be found in human acceptance, love, and the acquiring of stuff.  The things of this earth fall through our fingers like sand.  If we try to build our life on them we won’t be trusting God and we will be grumbling the whole time.

Matthew 6:19-20 (ESV)

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal,  [20] but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.

I want to teach you a principle that I’ve found extremely helpful in seeking to live a life by trust.  I’ve perfected it yet and still have times of living outside of faith.  Here is something you can do that will help you live by faith.

The biblical truth given to us to fight off grumbling is to practice thanksgiving.

The life change today is that the Holy Spirit wants us not to be grumblers like the Hebrews in the wilderness, but instead it is clear that He wants us to practice a godly way of expressing our feelings.  Practice thanksgiving instead.  Why? The Holy Spirit want this, because grumbling ultimately produces rebellion and thanksgiving produces faith.

Here is the principle…

Let’s say we’re caught up in a life of grumbling or we at least tend toward grumbling.  Complaints flow out of our mouths like a water fall.  Our heart is grumbling and it shows itself through what we say.

Luke 6:45 (ESV)

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

We’ve potentially been living life without trust without dependence on the Creator.  In order to break this deadly cycle of sin, I need help.  We have the power of the Holy Spirit, we have our conscience, and we want to live a godly life.

If we begin to purposefully practice thanksgiving, even though our hearts are still going the direction of grumbling, in time, they will catch up.  We can be thankful in all circumstances by the strength God supplies.

Philip. 4:6 (ESV)

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Thankfulness strengthens faith and grumbling weakens faith.  It’s so important that we cultivate strong faith in ourselves and others.

[19] So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.

*Much of the application section of this sermon came from an article entitled Grumbling—A Look At A Little Sin by Paul David Tripp

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