Good morning to you all. I am the new rookie, the new campus pastor here. It’s good to have you all with us. Turn in your Bibles to Hebrews, chapter 3. We’ll be looking at verses 7 through 14. As you’re turning there, just for a moment, let’s go to the Lord in prayer.
Lord, this morning the theme of our time from your Word has been hope. Lord, we know we have hope because of what you have already accomplished in your Son. Christ, because of your finished work on the cross, Lord, we are those who of all people should be hopeful. Yet, Lord, we confess the burden of this world, Lord, often tugs at that.
Lord, battles with our own sins, struggles with relationships, difficult things that happen that are out of our control… Lord, all of those things tug at our hope in you, so this morning would your Word reunite in us? Would you kindle anew affections that are rooted and grounded in what you have done on our behalf, Christ? Amen.
My wife reads a story by John Bunyan to my children at night as they are going to. It’s the children’s version of The Pilgrim’s Progress. In particular, one of the main characters in the story, Christian… In one of the primary chapters Christian is taken captive by the huge Giant Despair. This Giant Despair takes Christian, and he takes him down to his dungeon of despair, and he tortures him over and over and over and over again.
As Christian is experiencing this dark night of the soul, the only one who can be attentive, the only one who can attend and give care to Christian’s heart is his friend named Hopeful. You see what John Bunyan is attempting to do. He’s attempting to connect, that is, hope and the way we live our lives. He’s trying to put the two of those together. Why would that be important? Because loss of hope is death. If we lose hope, we die.
Viktor Frankl, a survivor of the horrific Nazi war camps, writes and chronicles all the different causes of deaths during those horrible camps, and he lists out the primary cause of death as loss of hope. He has this to say. “The prisoner who had lost his faith in the future—his future—was doomed. With his loss of belief in the future, he also lost his spiritual hold; he let himself decline and became subject to mental and physical decay.
Usually this happened quite suddenly, in the form of a crisis, the symptoms of which were familiar to the experienced camp inmate. We all feared this moment—not for ourselves, which would have been pointless, but for our friends. Usually it began with the prisoner refusing one morning to get dressed and wash or to go out on the parade grounds.
No entreaties, no blows, no threats had any effect. He just lay there, hardly moving. If this crisis was brought about by an illness, he refused to be taken to the sick-bay or to do anything to help himself. He simply gave up. There he remained, lying in his own excreta, and nothing bothered him any more.”
Christian, is this secretly where you’re at this morning? If we were to really get inside your soul this morning, is this where you would say you’re at? In your battle with sin, anxiety, fear, worry, lust… In your battle with your sin, have you given up hope? Because this text this morning is meant to infuse hope back inside of us. So let’s read it together. Hebrews, chapter 3, verse 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 wilderness, where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works 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.“ As I swore in my wrath, ”They shall not enter my rest.“
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it called ”today,“ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.’”
Now stop the press! “Wait a minute, rookie preacher! There’s nothing hopeful about that text.” Right? You’re like, “If you’re going to preach on hope, at least pick a text that’s warm and fuzzy. That text is not encouraging. It’s scary!” It feels like the boogeyman just jumping out from around corners, just scaring folks. Right?
Let’s be honest. When I read the text some of you got scared this morning. Let’s just go ahead and put it out there. You wet yourself. It’s okay. It was just a little bit, but you got scared. Right? Because it’s hard for us to figure out how in the world this is supposed to be hopeful. Where is our hope here?
Well, if it’s true (the words of Jesus) that every text points back to him, then what we need to do is to figure out how this text relates to Christ, to find Christ in it, and there our hope will be. So therefore at verse 7 is a key indicator pointing back to something. The therefore at verse 7 is pointing back to Hebrews, chapter 3, verses 1 through 6.
“Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house. For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself.
(For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.”
You see the comparison. The comparison is between Jesus and Moses. Usually when we think of comparison, we think of comparing that which is good to that which is bad, but that’s not what the text is doing here. The text is comparing that which is great to that which is greater. Right? Moses has been faithful, so he’s great. In a very real sense, Jesus has been faithful, so he also is great, but Jesus is greater because Jesus has been building. Because Jesus has been working, he has built the house. Moses didn’t do nuttin’. (That’s different than nuthin’. That’s more comprehensive.)
Moses didn’t lift a finger, whereas Jesus is the builder of the house. If we were to look back at books like 1 Peter or something like that, we could see what it is pointing to. What it is lifting up before our eyes is the finished work of Jesus Christ. His death, burial, and resurrection have purchased a people for his own possession, and those people are being formed into the liking of a house. That’s what it’s pointing to. Everything Moses did is meant to be a triangle in which we take the precious and priceless work of Jesus and set it on so we can see the work of Christ. Let me illustrate it like this.
MasterCard came out not too long ago with a series of commercials. Do you remember them? The cadence of the commercial would go something like this. It would say, “Tickets to the baseball game… Thirty dollars. The cost of buying a drink, some popcorn, and a hot dog for two at the game… Forty-five dollars. The cost of a little mitten with his favorite player’s signature on it… Twenty dollars. Time alone between father and son getting intimate time knowing one another… Priceless.” See how it sets it up like that?
That’s what it’s saying of the work of Christ and how priceless it is. It is to Moses who is given the task of delivering God’s people out of captivity. It is to Moses who is given the ability to see the Lord face to face. It is to Moses who is protected as a baby. It is to Moses who gets to be a part of the 10 plagues.
It is to Moses who shepherds God’s people through the desert. It is to Moses to whom the Lord gives long life. It is to Moses… It is to Moses… It is to Moses, and yet all of that serves as a triangle where which we set the priceless work of Jesus on top so we may see it clearly. Moses has done nothing compared to Jesus.
So in what way are you tempted to devalue the work of Christ in your life? Because watch the flip here. “And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.” Did you catch that? Jesus is priceless and precious because of his work, and Jesus’ work is priceless, and we are that house. Because of the finished work of Christ, it can be said of us that we are priceless because of what Christ has done on our behalf, believer.
So in what way are you tempted to minimize that work in your life? In what way does your conscience tempt you to devalue that work? Is it up next to your sin? In what way do other people tempt you to devalue that work? And what do you do…? What do you do when you find your heart not valuing the work of Christ? This is our thesis statement. You boast in your hope in Christ.
John Bunyan, in a conversation he says he had with the Tempter (with Satan), has this to say regarding his boast and his hope in Christ. He says, “Now while the scriptures lay before me, and [revealed] sin anew at my door, that saying in [the] eighteenth [chapter of] Luke, with others, did encourage me to prayer; then the tempter again laid at me very sore, suggesting, ’That neither the mercy of God, nor yet the blood of Christ, did at all concern me, nor could they help me for my sin; therefore, it was but in vain to pray.” Do you ever feel like that?
“’Yet,’ thought I, ’I will pray.’ ’But,’ said the tempter, ’Your sin is unpardonable.’ ’Well,’ said I, ’I will pray.’ ’It is [for nothing],’ said he. ’Yet,’ said I, ’I will pray.’ So I went to prayer to God; and while I was at prayer, I uttered words to this effect: ’Lord, Satan tells me, that neither thy mercy, nor Christ’s blood is sufficient to save my soul; Lord, shall I honor thee most, by believing [you Lord] wilt, and canst! or him, by believing that thou neither wilt nor canst? Lord, I would [gladly honor you], by believing [that you will and you can].’”
Did you catch that? In the face of the Tempter, in the face of Satan throwing his sin before him, he holds on to his boast in Christ, his hope in Christ. This is what we do, believer. When others bring before us our sin, tell them to label them before you and to put a price on them. “It is true. I am guilty of that, and it has cost me greatly. You’re right. I am guilty of this, and it is costing me daily.”
When your conscience lays your sin before you, have your conscience number and lay them and price all your sins before you. When the Devil comes and does this… Unbeliever, this is not for you. When the Devil points out your sin, number them. Put a price tag on all of them and then say what the Puritan, Richard Sibbes, says, that there is more grace to be found in Christ Jesus than sin in me. His work is priceless and more precious to God than any of this I could ever lay before him. Did you catch that?
This is the thesis statement then by which we move forward. Hold on to your confidence and our boasting in our hope. Now wait a minute. Because everything that follows… I read it to you earlier and you got scared by that boogeyman. The question then is that everything that follows is an undoing of that… Right? “…do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion…” Therefore (it’s causal), the Lord was provoked to anger. “They shall not enter my rest.”
Or verse 12, the big statement. “…fall away from the living God.” Is this an indication of loss of salvation? If so, we all are to be pitied. We’re all in trouble. I’m not talking about just a guy who has a lot of sin. Adam and Eve are kicked out of the garden for biting an apple, and you really think with our little, bitty sins we’re going to sneak by the holiness of God? Help you, if you think that. We’re all to be pitied and in trouble if that’s what this text means. So what’s going on here?
Well, this text (Hebrews, chapter 3, 7 through 11) is pointing back to Psalm 95. Psalm 95 is pointing back to the context of the book of Numbers, chapter 14. If we were to go back there (Numbers, chapter 14), we would realize this is a particular time in redemptive history where God has just brought his people out of captivity to Pharaoh. Right?
They had been saved by miraculous wonder and deed. God has brought them out, and yet they sin against God (if I could summarize it) in three ways. First, they began to question the quality of God’s deliverance of them. They literally say to the Lord, “We want to go back to Pharaoh.” Can you imagine that?
That’s somewhat like this. That’s like the Jews during the Holocaust being set free and saying, “We want to go back.” That’s what they’re declaring. That’s like slaves who have been set free and want to go back to voluntary slavery, to captivity, all over again. That’s what they’re crying out. “Lord, it’s hard out here. We’re questioning the quality of your deliverance.”
The second thing is they question God’s provision for them. God has just delivered them through the Red Sea. He has a fire that’s attending their way. He has done the 10 plagues. He has done all of these things, and they’re questioning God’s provision. The third thing they’re doing… God tells them, “I’m going to give you the Promised Land. Take the Promised Land.” The third thing… They begin to question God’s word, its truthfulness, whether or not we can trust it, and its sufficiency.
They’re beginning to grumble and think, “There’s no way we’re going to get it.” Lest you think, “I wouldn’t do that if I were in that position…” Lest you’re tempted to think they’re sitting in that chair and we’re not, let me help you see how this is always a way God’s people are tempted to question him.
That is, every time you sin you are willingly putting yourself before a tyrant, an enemy, a foe, that is much worse than Pharaoh could have ever been, called your sin. You’re willingly putting yourself back in captivity. What you’re saying to yourself is, “Lord, I don’t believe you really have delivered me, so I’m going to go back to this,” or “Lord, the quality of your deliverance isn’t that good. I’d rather have captivity.”
How about God’s provision for us? This is true of my life. It’s always subtle, but every time things start to get hard, every time there’s drama… Amen to drama. Right? Every time there’s drama in my life, things start to get hard, I slowly but surely begin to question the provision of God for me, his character, and his goodness to me. When you lose a job, do you question? The loss of a child? Loss of family?
When difficulties happen, do you question the provision of God for you? It’s the first thing that goes on in your heart. “God, your character and your goodness? I’m not sure about it.” For some of us, we question God’s Word. That is (let me go ahead and put this bluntly), some of you call yourselves Christians and yet you think like a pagan. You think like an unbeliever.
You think God can save you, but for the rest of your life, the Word of God doesn’t have to have lordship over you. If you think that way about relationships… If you don’t order the way you think about relationships, the way you think about your job, the way you think of all of life, what you are saying is, “Lord, your Word is not sufficient. It’s not authoritative, and I can’t trust it.” You’re questioning the Lord’s Word in your life.
For all of those things, Numbers, chapter 14, verse 11: “And the Lord said to Moses, ’How long will these people despise me? And how long will they not believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them? I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.’” All of redemptive history right here all wrapped up. If the Lord brings judgment in terms of wiping them away, all of it’s done. Yet we know the story continues. What happens? Moses intercedes. Listen to this.
“But Moses said to the Lord, ’Then the Egyptians will hear of it, for you brought up this people in your might from among them, and they will tell the inhabitants of this land. They have heard that you, O Lord, are in the midst of this people. For you, O Lord, are seen face to face, and your cloud stands over them and you go before them, in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night.’” Did you catch that? “Lord, everybody knows you’re the one who brought them out this far. They can all see it. They know it’s you, Lord.”
“Now if you kill this people as one man, then the nations who have heard your fame will say, ’It is because the Lord was not able to bring this people into the land that he swore to give to them that he has killed them in the wilderness.’ And now, please let the power of the Lord be great as you have promised, saying, ’The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation.’”
Here it is. Here’s the plea. Here’s the cry. “Please pardon the iniquity of this people, according to the greatness of your steadfast love, just as you have forgiven this people, from Egypt until now.” Moses intercedes. Then verse 20: “Then the Lord said, ’I have pardoned, according to your word.’” He forgives, but there are consequences.
“But truly, as I live, and as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord, none of the men who have seen my glory and my signs that I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and yet have put me to the test these ten times and have not obeyed my voice, shall see the land that I swore to give to their fathers. And none of those who despised me shall see it.”
First, the Lord forgives, and yet there are consequences to sin. The first one first. The Lord forgives. Remember our argument. Moses is great, but Jesus is greater! Right? Here’s the point. If the Lord forgives when it is Moses who is the one who is pleading and who is crying out and who is begging… If the Lord forgives when it is Moses who is interceding, how much more so when it is the blood of Christ that is pleading, that is begging, and that is interceding on our behalf? Right?
There is forgiveness in Christ, and yet there are consequences to sin. I know what some of you are doing right now. Some of you, in your mind, are like… You want me to do more. You want me to do more! You want me not to tell you you’re okay in Christ. What you want me to do is to tell you that you’re okay so you can have a warm fuzzy feeling about your sin. Like a seventh-grader who wants to know, “How far can I go?”
I can’t do that for you. There are consequences to sin. That’s what happens to the person who does drugs all their life. They can be redeemed, free, set free, and live in freedom, but for the rest of their life, they may wake up with the shakes or cold sweats. There are consequences to sin. Yet on the other side, there’s forgiveness.
Some of you are wanting me to run to the category of “once saved, always saved.” Right? I don’t want to do that! I don’t want to make you put your trust in a dead, cold truth. I want you to put your trust in the living God, in the living Christ. We will always be tempted to put our assurance and our hope in our own ability to understand versus the reality of the living God who is mediating on our behalf.
My son, Malachi, runs around with a little “binkie.” It’s a blanket. Every 10 to 15 minutes that blanket has to be put up next to his face and rubbed. Otherwise, there’s going to be World War III. He loves that security blanket. What I want him to understand is that security blanket pales in comparison to Daddy’s love of him. I am the reality of that love.
That’s what we do. We run past that category to the finished work of Christ that is pleading on our behalf. If we interpret Hebrews, chapter 3, (when we flip back) as a loss of salvation, we completely miss the point. That is, Moses is pleading and pointing at (he’s taking aim at) God’s omnipotence, his all-powerfulness. He’s saying, “God, if the nations see this, they’ll think you’re not powerful enough to deliver.”
He’s pointing at that, and the Lord, because of his own namesake and his own glory, rises up, because he is all-powerful. He is all-omnipotent. Right? Hebrews 3, then, is doing the exact same thing Moses is doing. It’s pointing and saying, “Do not walk in unbelief. Do not have lack of trust in God’s ability and his power to keep you and to sustain you.”
When we flip back to Hebrews, chapter 3, what we could say of this is all of sin in a measure (I think John Piper is the one who says this) is unbelief in God’s power and his character to be good to us. So we have to take up and try to figure out how to get it myself. “Lord, I want this pleasure. I want this thing. I want it for myself. I don’t trust you’re going to give it to me in your time and in your way, so I’m going to go get it myself.” It’s unbelief.
Everything we’re about to do from here forward… What we could say is this is hope made visible. That’s what I told you in the beginning. This text is going to connect hope and the way we live our lives. Hope made visible. Laid bare. If unbelievers came to us and they said, “I want to see what it’s like to be in grace,” or “I want to see what grace creates,” is it not proper that they would look to us and our love for one another to see that?
That’s what’s going on here. “See to it, lest there be any evil, unbelieving heart in you.” This is the thing we are to root out of us. Unbelief. All the ways we don’t trust in God. We’re to put it away. Let me put it in words where we can understand it. It is the willingness to belong and the willingness to be known and to know others.
First, the willingness to belong. That is, this is at least. He said, “…lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart…” How do we make sure there’s no evil or unbelieving heart if we have not drawn a parameter around what it means to be us? This is a nod at church membership, what it means to be a part of the fellowship of God.
God’s love is not this love that comes out and just settles simply on you and stays there. That’s a poor view of God’s love. God’s love is like a boomerang. It goes out. It sets on you. Then it turns and points you back to God. Everybody who has been turned back to God has been brought into a fold. That’s what God’s love does. It’s a gathering together. It brings people in, what it means to belong, to be a part of church membership. Right?
This is what this is nodding at. Help you if you’re just attending. You don’t get it. You’re missing the point. It’s talking about us covenanting together, belonging together, and help you if you think belonging is not unlike what it means to belong to some country club, some workout facility, where you get to go, it’s all based on you, you get to do your work, you get to be served, and then you leave. Church membership is hard work! It takes effort. How in the world are we supposed to make sure there’s no unbelieving heart in us unless we’re working at it together? Right?
The other thing is you must be willing to be known. There must be an exposing of your sin. What in the world does it mean to have an unbelieving heart? How do we see that? How do we measure it unless we’re willing to, as the Scriptures say, confess our sins to one another, to expose the many ways we’re walking in unbelief? This is hard work!
Have you ever had someone who knows you this well, who knows you well enough they can see when you’re walking in unbelief? It’s hard. You walk into a room and the person can look at you. You give them a look, and they’re like, “I see it. I see it in you.” They can see your unbelief and you can see theirs.
Listen. I’m new here, so I’m not… I love Home Groups. That is what we call them? Home Groups? There are city groups, home groups, care groups… It gets cumbersome. I love Home Groups. I love what they afford. Especially, elders, the opportunity to be able to keep up and care for the sheep. I love that.
The danger of Home Groups is you can belong and yet not be known. You can be a part of the group, go there, be a faithful attendee, and yet not be known. This truth right here (making sure there is no unbelieving heart in you) can’t be true of you because you’re unwilling to belong and to be known in the right way.
Perhaps the better term we should call them (I’ve heard said) is Fight Group, where we’re fighting with one another’s sin, warring with all the different ways we get in there and we see unbelief. It’s going to take effort and work. This is how I would define discipleship. The purpose of the local church is to care for one another and to make sure we are all walking in faith, putting away unbelief.
Watch how this text ends. “For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.” Did you catch that? There’s this sense in which we are hoping in Christ. We are boasting of our hope in him when our consciences, when other people, and when Satan throws our sin before him. We are hoping in Christ, but that hope is made visible in what we do with our lives. It comes out. It’s tangible. You can see it and feel it. You can measure it. Belief!
Let me illustrate it like this. We teach kids at an early age… I don’t know that it’s necessarily written into the curriculum, but we’ll oftentimes tell them the story of the three pigs. You know the story of the three pigs where these three pigs are working, and they’re building a house. One is building out of hay. It goes quickly. One is building out of sticks. It goes quickly. And they’re laughing at the last pig, who is building out of rock. Right? He’s taking his time.
But on the day when the wolf comes, they all run into the house. He knocks on the door, and he says, “Open up!” The pigs say, “Not by the hair on my chinny-chin-chin.” So he huffs and he puffs and he blows the house down. Right? Each pig runs. The one with hay runs to the straw, and then they run, finally, into the house that is made out of rock, and it stands.
What are you building your house out of? Your own effort? Your own work? Your own achievement? Or are you building your house out of the rock? Out of the priceless and precious cornerstone that is Christ? Better yet, we should say with this text…Has Christ built his house out of us? Are we living out of the house that is Christ hoping and boasting in his finished work on our behalf?
Yet it comes back, and it’s made visible in that. Are you living that way? Can people see you are tangibly living out of your hope in Christ? The connection between hope and the way we live our lives. Hope made visible. All eyes closed and heads bowed.
Lord, we thank you for your goodness to us. We thank you for your finished work on the cross, Lord. We pray we would be those who unbelievers can look and see what it is like to hope and to trust and walk in you. Yet, Spirit, we trust you would make it so. It’s in Jesus’ name we pray, amen.