"HARDENING OF THE ARTERIES"
(A Series on Hebrews)
Westgate Chapel 1/19/97 a.m. Hebrews 3:7-19
PROPOSITION: There is a stern warning in Hebrews about the danger of ignoring the urgency of today, becoming deaf to the voice of the Spirit, and allowing your heart to harden to the touch of God.
- MY father had a variety of work experiences before he entered the ministry at age 35.
- STRAIGHT off my grandfathers farm, he went to work at a large quarry.
- AND while at this quarry he had an encounter with electricity that was to change his life.
- HE was down in the pit supervising the loading of the coco-pans that pulled the rock up to the railroad siding.....when one of his men got trapped underneath a coco-pan......and the man operating the controls up in the shed had left his post for some reason.
- DAD ran up the embankment, and into the shed, and grabbed the handle to shut off the large electric motor.
- SINCE he was unfamiliar with the operation of the motors....he did not realize that the porcelin part of the handle had broken off, and was sitting on the window ledge.....and had to be slipped over the metal handle before you could operate the motor.
- SO, when he took hold of the handle, he took 3,000 volts of electricity.
- IT threw him against the corrugated iron wall of the shed with such force that it bellied the wall where he hit it.
- HE was unconscious for most of the day....with severe burns on his hands, arms and upper body.
- HIS eyes were swollen shut for days.......and it was obvious that God had spared his life because he should have died.
- NOW, I cannot explain this physiologically, but from that experience on, it got easier and easier for his body to handle electricity.
* He went from the quarry to work for the quarry owners, the Monzali family as their chief mechanic, maintaining their Bugatti's......the family car and their race car.
* And when he wanted to show off, he said that he could have someone start to rev up a straight eight engine, and he could lay both arms over the spark plugs and absorb all the spark until the car stalled.
* He did not need a tester to find out of there was electricity in a socket....he would just slip his finger into it...and say, "Yes" there is power there.
* I will never forget the time he was installing our electric stove in a house we were moving in to....and did not want to wait for the electrician......so he started wiring it himself......and when the pliars fell behind the stove he bent over to pick them up and took 220 in the top of his head......from the bare wires....and it knocked him back, but in minutes he was fine.
- IT was as if his encounters with electrical power had given him some sort of immunity to it.
- IN a spiritual sense, that is what happened to Israel.......after 40 years in the wilderness.....and the writer to the Hebrews uses it to warn believers about a spiritual hardness that can set and and prove fatal.
- IN the process of Israel's pilgrimage to the promised land.......they had many experiences that were tough.....and had the effect of hardening them to the touch of God on their lives.
* Right off the bat they had Pharaoh chasing them down with his army....and the trauma of thinking that they were going to die out there in the desert.
* Then there was the water shortages.
* And the problem of no food......then manna, day in and day out.
* Then there was the stormy time of rebellion with the golden calf....and the severe punishment that God meted out on them.
* Day after day...in those tents....together with almost 2 million people....in the hot desert.
* There were enemy nations that attacked them out of fear.
* There were the vipers that bit many of them and they died.
* There was temptation.....when king Balak tried to bring the whole nation down......at the drunken, lewd parties he would throw within eye-shot of Israel's camp.
- THERE were all kinds of encounters during their journey that would tend to make the best of us hard.
- AND they got hard hearted towards God.
- TO the point that when the spies went out to look over the promised land.....and two came back and said, "We can do it!".....and ten came back and said, "We'll never make it!".....2 million people went with the majority report. (Who said that democracy is the best way to get God's work done?)
- WELL, the hardening of their hearts cost that whole generation the promised land. That whole generation, expect for Joshua and Caleb, died out there in the wilderness.
- NOW, against this backdrop, the writer to the Hebrews, in 3:7-19, 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 desert, where your fathers tested and tried me and for forty years saw what I did. That is why I was angry with that generation, and 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.'"
- IT is a dangerous thing to become hard in your heart towards God........
* Slow to worship.
* Insensitive to the move of God's Spirit.
* No hunger for God's Word.
* Never in the place of prayer.
* No burden for souls.
* No faithfulness in the flow of ministry out of your life.
* No stewardship of the gifts He has given you.
- AND, in the pilgrimage of life, the enemy attacks, and there are times when you have a shortage of spiritual food, and then you become bored with the same diet, and temptation comes....because the enemy is dancing right next to your tent....and little by little you find hardness setting in.
- AND you don't know what to do.
- AND here comes the writer of Hebrews, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, writing to YOU, even though he wrote nearly 2,000 years ago, and he says, "TODAY!".
- NOT tomorrow!
- NOT in a moment!
- NOT when you feel the rush of angel's wings....or some special stirring in your soul......BUT TODAY.
- THIS is the day of God's grace.
- YOU have no control over tomorrow.
- THE writer is concerned that we not procrastinate when it comes to the things of God.
- IN fact, in verse 13 he picks up this same theme and says,
".....encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness."
- ISRAEL put off repentance and obedience to God so long that when the moment of crisis came and they had opportunity to move into the land of promise......their hearts were hard with unbelief and they never made it in.
- SO it is TODAY that God is concerned with in your pilgrimage to the land of promise.
iii. if you hear his voice
- THE next element of this warning that I want to highlight for you is...."If you hear His voice...."
- IMPLICIT in this part of the warning is that it is possible to get to the place where you do not to hear God's voice.
- IT is not for His lack of speaking that we do not hear....but, most of the time, for our lack of listening.
- MOST of the time the ears of our heart are so well tuned to the sounds of our own little world that God could scream and we would not hear.
* King Saul had this problem when he got impatient with waiting on God and took matters into his own hands....and lost his kingdom.
* Baalam had this problem when king Baalak was tempting him to curse Israel....with money and riches.
* Samson had this problem whe he preferred to listen to Delilah's voice than God's.
* Judas had this problem when thirty pieces of silver spoke so loud that he missed the voice of God forever.
- YOU see, sin dulls our hearing.
- AND every time that you or I sin, and ignore the voice of God's Spirit, calling us to repentance, we get a little harder of hearing.
- THAT is why all through the gospels, Jesus says, "Whoever has ears to hear....then let him hear the voice of God."
- TODAY!...........IF YOU HEAR GOD'S VOICE!
iv.do not harden your hearts
- HERE is the last part of this three-pronged warning........DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS.
- HOW are our hearts hardened?
- VERSES 12 & 13 tell us,
"See to it, brothers, 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."
- AN unbelieving heart is that heart that ignores God in its lifestyle and choices.......it acts as if there was no God.
- AND the deceptiveness of sin is that it hardens you every time you give in to temptation....so the next time is a little easier......and the next time a little less painful on your conscience......and the next time a little less conviction.
- AND you sit through the altar call, convinced that you can wait.....and deal with God later.
- AND all the time you are getting harder and harder......and it is not God's fault....YOU are the one hardening your heart.
- BUT this is TODAY.
- AND if you HEAR His voice.
- DON'T let this be another time that you harden your heart.
- RATHER, come to Jesus, at the foot of the cross and let Him soften your heart.
- THERE is no better place for softening than the cross.
- THE elders are coming to serve you communion.
- AND we are going to remember the cross....and the blood of Jesus...and His broken body.
- I DON'T know of any better way to be softened than looking up at the love of God for you, expressed on the cross.
- LET'S examine our heart condition before we partake this morning.
- IF you hear His voice....TODAY is the best time to respond......and let Him soften your heart.
HAVE THINE OWN WAY LORD