Hardened - The Sin Of Unbelief
brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing
from the living God; 13but exhort one another daily, while it is
called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness
of sin. 14For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the
beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, 15while it is
said: “Today, if you will
hear His voice, Do not harden your
hearts as in the rebellion.” 16For
who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of
The warning of our text, is addressed to a people familiar with the letter of God's word, hence applicability to all as are in attendance today. The majority of us "were raised upon our mother's knee", and were first fascinated by Bible stories told us by the best theologians for children, our mothers. We know the things of God, and therefore there is for every one of us here a message of warning.
A more solemn warning was never uttered by any of the apostolic writers, there are no words to which we ought to pay closer attention in the Scriptures, yet we listen to a text like this with some-what of a curiosity, wondering, what can Bro. Cope possibly say concerning it? “But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin”
There are many today I fear, who are not afraid of being hardened. There are many parents today who fear their children will fall into drugs, into crime, or the effects of alcoholic drink. It is terrible to see our children fall into these, Better to be a drunkard than to be Hardened . There is more chance for the man who is a drunkard, or in the grips of one specific sin than for the man hardened,
This is the peculiar peril of those who know the Bible and know God’s will for their lives. I question very much whether you could find me a person hardened in the sense of this text who is unfamiliar with the Bible and the gospel of Christ.
There are many today who are not familiar
with the Bible, who have not been
taught by mother. men who are so vicious that you say: "I'm thankful I'm not that kind of person." But they are not hardened, and can be reached with the saving
gospel of Christ. Hear the words Paul writes to the church, the Lord’s people at
you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the
“But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin”.
Let us first look at the peril: “Lest any of you be hardened” This word suggests a change, it indicates a process, and reveals to us a condition. When I say that the word suggest a change, I mean that no person starts life hardened. No little child is hard. Human nature is essentially impressionable. If you take a child in its earliest years out of any set of circumstances, and put it into new surroundings, you can mold this life.
There is no better illustration of this fact, than to see the change in some of the young children, reared in the worst conditions, then brought into better conditions. Hate and distrust vanish, love and responsibility replace it. Every child is impressionable, every child is open to enlightenment. Every child has dreams, visions, is capable of tears, and laughter.
The man who is hard, who boasts of his hardness, was not always so. If I could put my hand, upon your shoulder and by some mysterious process drive you back through the years, I would bring you back to a period of tenderness, to a moment when you were soft, and impressionable.
And some would say, "I'm glad those days are gone". I'm glad my feet are on solid ground now, I'm not like I was as a child." When we were children we often wept, now, we have lost our ability to weep.
But, because this word suggest change, it suggest also a process. What is the process? Look at the symptoms. What are the symptoms of this hardening? We began to fight against these child like qualities although the Lord said we must posses them to enter the kingdom. (Matthew 18:3-4) “Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. 4Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven”.
We began to silence our consciences as being inconvenient to success. Finally to question the surety of sacred things we learned at youth. There was a time when we men would weep over a dead frog, today we do not weep over lost souls! The fountain of tears has dried up.
There was a time when we blushed awkwardly when a small lie fell from our lips. Now there is no blush, no shame. There was a time, we believed the Bible, now we are no longer sure. The hardening process has gone forward until at last the condition of hardness is reached. This is the process of hardening. “No Tears No Conscience No Faith”.
Let me put this in practical words, and more personally: The moment comes when a man, who as he heard the story of Jesus as a boy wept, now he hears it without any emotion. The day comes when a man can listen to the terms of the gospel and never tremble. The most difficult men and women to reach with the gospel of Christ, are those who know it best, yet are unmoved by it. The apostle Paul warns young Timothy about this hardening process: 1 Tim 4:1-2 hear it:
“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; 2Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron”.
But next, How does a man becomes hardened/ And for this I take you to the final word of our text of Hebrews 3:13 the word “sin” And I ask, what is sin? There is a plain and simple statement made by the apostle John 1 John 3:4 hear it:
“4Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.”
The Greek word which is most translated sin is avmartiva pronounced “ham-ar-tee’-ah” and literally means to miss the mark.
This word used in the Olympic games and of the archer. When he draws his bow and shoots, to miss the mark he aimed at was “ham-ar-tee’-ah”
But it would be unfair for me to interpret the word sin in the book of Hebrews in any other way, than by that way the Hebrew writer uses it. In every case, from the first chapter to the last, the writer uses it of "unbelief". I take you to our text Hebrews 3:12
12 Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God;….. and verses 16-19
who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of
The sin that hardens therefore is the sin of "unbelief”. And in order to explain the sin of unbelief, that we may understand it , I ask what is belief?
Belief is that which brings a man into a saving relationship with Christ. But what is the belief that brings a man to this state? Not just an intellectual consent certain truths. It is possible for a man to believe intellectually all the truths of the gospel and yet be lost for all time and eternity. The fact that I am convinced of the truth of the Deity of Jesus, and of the atoning nature of His death, will not save me in and by itself. James tells us in chapter 2:19-20
19Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. 20But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
These truths do not become dynamic simply by our conviction of them. They become dynamic to the saving of our souls, When We Walk In Obedience To Them. When I believe in God, and His Son, not merely with my mind and heart, but also With My Will, Belief that saves, is a belief that compels me to surrender the whole of my life to those conviction of his truths.
Therefore it becomes evident that unbelief is refusal to obey the truths of which I am thoroughly convinced. To know the way of truth and to refuse to obey it, To hear the Master's voice, assent to the accuracy but refuse to bow to it's great demands, that is the "sin which hardens a man." When a man so disobeys, he becomes “hardened” by the very truth that might have softened him. He becomes enslaved by the very message that ought have made him free.
In that sense, the Gospel is a "smell (aroma) of life unto life, or of death unto death." (2 Cor.2:16). The unbelief that hardens, is not a man's refusal to accept intellectually statements of truth, but a refusal to obey that truth, when he hears and it lays claim to his duty, and calls upon him to walk a definite path. “Hardened”
This brings us to the central thought of our text: Why do men commit the sin of unbelief? Beloved, is not this the perpetual mystery? Why is it that men hear the truth but do not obey? Why will men, hear the gospel of Christ, knowing the certainty thereof. fail to yield to that truth? Like Felix we may tremble, but say "a more convenient season, I will call on thee" Why are men guilty of unbelief?
And here in our text is the word that shows that the writer of the Hebrew letter understood perfectly the reason: “Exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin”. Hebrews 3:13
The sin of unbelief is always the result of false argument breaking in. When truth comes to us and makes its claim, if the man does not obey, it is because he is deceived either intellectually, emotionally, or of his own doing.
It will be easier now to illustrate than to attempt to state the case theoretically. Suppose I say to you "You know what you need to do, you have been raised up on Bible teachings, and yet you are not a Christian. It may be that you once even made a claim, but things have changed, you are no longer in fellowship, you have become hardened”. Why?
Because of your unbelief, your refusal to obey the truth, and walk in its light. “But why did you refuse”?
Now if we could hear some definite testimony, we should hear things as these. I will not imagine a single case but will tell you actual things that have been said to me.
One man tells me that he is not a Christian because he desires his freedom and liberty. There are 1000's of men and women in our state today, who believe and revere the gospel of Christ, yet are not Christians, because they want to be free. Now listen to "the deceitfulness of sin." What it says to you. "If you will refuse to obey the gospel, and God, you will be free?"
Was sin ever more deceitful? No man is free who is serving the lusts and desires of his own heart. The things that you, yourself, desire to do, unchecked, is at this time weaving a chain around you! It may not seem so, "I can break this chain anytime I want to. ". But in time we will find that the chain about us is set. If you would only be truthful you would confess that already the chain has is so fastened that you cannot break it. “I Have This Bad Habit, I Cannot Stop It”. Here is the truth.
The story of slavery to sin in our country today is the story of men who have sought for freedom, and have found slavery. It is the story of men who have declined to have a master and they have become slaves of the worst taskmasters that ever held human beings in bondage. Hear the apostle Paul describe this by inspiration: Romans 6:16
16Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?
At the back of every sin that curses humanity is “Desire “If a man answers his desires without constraint, he becomes a slave of that desire (James 1:13-15).
3 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.
If you want to be free? Come to Jesus, He alone can make men free.
Take another illustration — A man says to me, “Yes I know all that is true, but I want to see life, I would have to give up so much to be a Christian at this time”. “Exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin”. Hebrews 3:13
But name what would you have to give up? I would be perfectly willing to stop preaching for a moment if you would tell me, what you would have to give up to be a Christian, which I cannot keep, being a Christian. If you will name anything you can do, not being a Christian which I am denied being a Christian, you will know immediately that the thing you cling to, you call it seeing life, is the thing that passes sentence of death upon you.
You dare not do it brothers¾ because you know that I would say to you, "What about it? You know you should give it up?" And you reply, “Yes, but I don’t want to just now, I'll do it later." You are being deceived by sin. We want life, yet in its pursuit, we are walking in the shadows of death. “Oh. The deceitfulness of sin”.
Another says to me! “Well, I am not a Christian, because I don't under-stand enough to become a Christian. I don't understand the baptism, the Lord’s supper, attendance …….So I haven't become a Christian. “ If we adopted this method in any other department of life, where would we be in one week.
The perpetual law we live by is, we accept known truth, and act accordingly. We investigate the remaining unknowns. Yet men will tell us, I am not a Christian, there are so many things I don't understand.. None of us will ever know all there is to know. We would become bored with the Bible if we did. It is the learning of some new truth that keeps me returning to the Word for prayerful study.
But to learn what God would have us do, to be saved and even live right daily is quite simple. Isaiah pointed to the simplicity of it in these words of Isaiah 35:8
8And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein
In Conclusion. But there is another word, and it is a word that the translators have written with a capital letter. What is it? "Today"
But exhort one another daily, while it is called Today; lest any of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin
In this word there is both severity and hope. The severity is, we must act today. No man has the promise of tomorrow. The hope found in this word is "Today". We still have (right now) today. Today is the day of salvation, Notice again our text, Hebrews 3:14
“For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, 15 while it is said: “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”
If we can be of further help to you in your search for truth, and what a Loving, Patient Heavenly Father desires of you, please email us by using the link on our homepage. May God bless you as you study and seek truth.
Ron Cope Minister churches of Christ