Hebrews is a sobering book.  It is a frightening book.  And, it is a book that when taken seriously, can make one very happy.  Why?  Because the author of the book of Hebrews is laboring diligently to ensure that all of his readers go to heaven.  The author of Hebrews is a very loving person and, in his love, he uses strong warnings and exhortations to keep true Christians persevering in their faith and wake up those whose assurance of salvation may not be grounded in reality.

One warning that the author of Hebrews extends to his readers is found in chapter 3:12-14.  He warns professing Christians to “Take care” and make sure that neither they, or anyone in the community of professing believers, acquires a heart of unbelief and falls away from the living God.  It is important to note, here, that “falling away” does not merely mean one who is struggling with sin in their Christian life.  It refers to one who is in the throes of unbelief.  It refers to someone who once appeared to be a Christian, but who now demonstrating, by their rebellion, indifference, and rejection of Christ that they were never truly saved to begin with (I John 2:19).  So this is serious business.  The author is instructing his readers to “take care” to make sure that none of the professing Christians around them (including themselves) falls away from God; i.e. goes to hell.

In order to keep each other away from falling away from the living God, the author of Hebrews prescribes a remedy.  Verse 13 reads, “But encourage one another day after day as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”

Do you see safeguard that the author gives us in order to make sure no one in our community of professing Christians acquires a hardened heart and proves themselves to be an unbeliever?  It is regular, everyday, encouragement.  Some versions translate the word for “encourage” as “exhort,” instead.  I think both words express what we should be doing with our brothers and sisters in Christ.  We should both exhort and encourage; or, in other words, we should be hammers and heat.

In order that our brothers and sisters in Christ do not get hardened by sin, we must be the hammers of exhortation that chisel away at their hearts with firm warnings when we see them follow after sin.  “Brother, I notice that you are really becoming far more interested in popularity and and being cool then you are about living for Christ at school.  Have you considered the warnings of Jesus when he says, ‘Whoever denies Me before men I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven?’  If you keep living like that, you are proving that you do not truly belong to Christ and He will deny you when you step into His presence someday.  Snap out of it, brother!”

But, we must also come alongside of that same brother with with warm heat of encouragement in order to melt his heart with the sweet allurements of Christ.  “Brother, you are missing out on so much joy when you compromise your life like that.  Jesus promises us unfathomable joy in Him when we walk in loving obedience to Him.  The enjoyment of Christ is infinitely better than the temporary enjoyment that popularity offers.”

Hammers and heat.  This will keep our brother and sisters from being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.  This combination will chip away the hard rock of rebellion and melt the cold heart of unbelief.  May we be hammers and heat and help our brothers and sisters persevere into the kingdom.

Photo: Jerry Swiatek

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