Sunday, May 25, 2014, 7:44 a.m. – the Lord Jesus put the song in mind, “My Jesus, I Love Thee.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Hebrews 3-4 (NIV). To Fellow Believers Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest… Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory. When we read this passage, we might be tempted to think the writer is speaking to non-Christians, because otherwise some of what is said here might mess with our theology, but he is writing to fellow believers in Christ, who share in the heavenly calling. We are to fix our thoughts on Jesus, i.e. we are to think determinedly about him in all things in life. We have a phrase we use here in the southern U.S. to describe the fact that we are getting ready to or we are in the process of doing something. It is called “fixin to.” Certainly that is one aspect of fixing our thoughts on Jesus, but it is also to “fasten, secure or to position” our judgments, philosophies, planning, opinions, and reasoning on Him; founded upon Him. So, what does that mean exactly? Well, it means he should be in our thoughts when we wake in the morning, as we go throughout our day, when we relax or do whatever we do in the evenings and when we go to bed at night. And, it isn’t just that he should be in our thoughts, but he should be foremost in our thoughts, attitudes, reasoning, decisions, etc., including we should determinedly regard him and his values in whatever we choose to take into our eyes, minds, and hearts, and in all our attitudes, thoughts and behaviors. He is the faithful Son who is over God’s house, the church, Christ’s body. And, we are his house IF we hold firmly to our confidence (conviction and trust) in him and in the hope of our salvation from sin, i.e. IF we persevere in our faith to the end (Cf. Jn. 8:31-32; Ro. 11:17-24; 1 Co. 15:2; Col. 1:21-23; Heb. 3:14-15; 2 Pet. 1:5-11; I Jn. 2:24-25). What? I thought God’s gift of salvation to us was free and unconditional? Now you are telling me that I am his house only IF I hold firmly to the end of my life the trust and faith I had in him from the beginning? Is this really what it says? Let’s keep reading and see. Sinful, Unbelieving Hearts So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness, where your ancestors tested and tried me, though for forty years they saw what I did. That is why I was angry with that generation; I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.’ So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’ ” See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end… Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies perished in the wilderness? And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief. Wow! This is some really tough stuff, and not everyone agrees on what this all means, yet we can’t just write it off that he is speaking to non-believers or to professors of Christ only. And, I don’t have all the answers, either. I know what the scriptures teach about salvation, though. I know it is a free gift. I know we do nothing to earn or to deserve it. We are not saved by any of our own righteous acts, for our righteousness, outside of Christ, is as filthy rags. I know that scripture teaches, as well, that, when we put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ that we are sealed with his Holy Spirit, guaranteeing what is to come. Yet, I also know that faith is not just an emotion, feeling, belief, doctrine or religious practice. Faith in Christ means that, by his grace, we appropriate (assume or adopt) to our lives what he did for us in dying on the cross for our sins. Jesus died so we could be forgiven of our sins, have the hope of eternity with God in glory, and escape the punishment of hell. Yet, he also died so we would be free from slavery to sin through death to sin and self, and so we would be free to now walk in his holiness and righteousness (See Eph. 4:17-24; Ac. 26:16-18; Tit. 2:11-14; Ro. 6-8; Gal. 2:20; 1 Jn. 1-5; & 2 Co. 5:15, et al). Yet, I also know the parable of the seed in which the seed (the word) was planted in four different types of soil. The first type of soil (heart response) was to not believe, and the fourth was to follow Jesus Christ wholeheartedly. I don’t believe there is any dispute over those. Yet, the second type of soil, i.e. heart response to the gospel is one who receives the gospel with joy and enthusiasm, but over time it gets choked out because their faith was superficial, i.e. it never really took root. So, were they, for a time, numbered among the holy brothers and sisters? And, what about the third type of soil (heart response)? It sounds a whole lot like the second one, but yet it is distinctly different. Perhaps this could be speaking of one who is a believer but who has forsaken his first love (his pure devotion to Jesus Christ) or who has wandered off from the truth or who has been led astray. Again, I don’t have all the answers, but what I do know is he is talking to Christians and to those who call themselves Christians and he is telling them that genuine faith in Jesus Christ – remember we are also saved by faith – is the kind that endures, because it is of the Spirit. So, maybe the author here – really God – knows some of these brothers and sisters have not truly been born of the Spirit and that their faith is just superficial. And, so he is warning them that true faith – the kind that saves – is the kind that is enduring. Or, maybe we can be saved, and have the hope of eternal life, but then turn away from it never to return. Many of the scripture references in this first section under the discussion of “IF,” appear to say just that, i.e. that we can be in the vine, but we can be cut off due to unbelief. How can we be cut off if we are not believers to begin with though? The Take Away So, what can we take away from all this? Clearly we are being encouraged to focus our thinking (reasoning, values, beliefs, theologies) on Jesus Christ. And, we are given a picture here, as well, of genuine, believing faith. It is the kind that perseveres and endures to the end. So, if it doesn’t last, then probably it was not real faith to begin with. As well we are cautioned and warned against hardening our hearts to the Spirit’s voice. Can true believers in Christ do that? Most certainly! That is why the Spirit gets grieved and quenched, because believers, who have the Spirit within them, ignore his voice and go their own way. This is why Jesus Christ is jealous for his church with a godly jealousy, because he saved us to be his very own. So, this warning is for all of us, not just the superficial followers of Christ. As well, we are to encourage one another daily, as long as we have today, so that none of us may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. Obviously, this is possible for genuine believers in Jesus Christ. We can still fall back into sin. We can still ignore the voice of the Spirit within us and go our own way. We can still choose to follow the flesh instead of the Spirit, and we can choose to forsake our “first love” to follow after “other gods,” i.e. after the things, pleasures, philosophies and sinful lifestyles, attitudes, behaviors and thinking of this world. That is why there are so many warnings in scripture to the believers to flee all those things and to follow Christ in single-minded devotion. We encourage each other by these warnings, cautions, speaking the truth in love, and by nurturing, discipling and cheering on our fellow believers in the faith so we don’t fall back on the “same old.” So, what does this all mean for us? Well, for one it means that God takes sin seriously, even after we come to faith in him. He doesn’t wink at our sin, our rebellions, or our straying from him. He loves us. He died for us so we could be free from all that. And, he wants us to repent of our adulteries against him and to make him our “first love” once again. If we choose to go it alone, and we choose to ignore him, we won’t have his peace, his counsel, his protection from the evil one, his healing mercies, his comfort and joy, etc. We will always be discontented in some way or another, because we know what we are doing is not right. We will miss out on many of his blessings he has for our lives, and we won’t be able to bear much fruit for his kingdom. And, we will miss out on so much God has for us! It also means we could be depending on a lie for our salvation, thinking that all we have to do is pray some prayer and we have our ticket into heaven and now that we are under grace we are free to do whatever we want without guilt. That is not what scripture teaches. But, it does warn us against not shutting off the Spirit’s voice, not hardening our hearts in rebellion against what we know is right, not testing God’s grace and patience, and being careful that we don’t end up with sinful, unbelieving hearts that turn away from God. Love for God means we obey him, we listen to him and we follow his lead. Do we love God? My Jesus, I Love Thee / William R. Featherstone / Adoniram J. Gordon My Jesus, I love thee, I know thou art mine; for thee all the follies of sin I resign. My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art thou; if ever I loved thee, my Jesus, 'tis now. I love thee because thou hast first loved me, and purchased my pardon on Calvary's tree; I love thee for wearing the thorns on thy brow; if ever I loved thee, my Jesus, 'tis now. I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death, And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath; And say, when the death-dew lies cold on my brow, If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ‘tis now.