Take Great Care Against Lukewarmness

Date:
June 22, 2014
Text:
Hebrews 2:12-14 (also 15-19)

Introduced

  1. Our apostle after quoting from Psalm 95, applies the text to his readers.
    1. The Jews of old had rebelled, they hardened their hearts, they put God to the test, they went astray in their hearts. They had refused to obey God's commandment to enter into the promised land and into his rest. Therefore God gave them over to their sin and pronounced a judgment against them. "If you will not enter into my rest because of your evil unbelieving hearts therefore this is my verdict, I swear to you in my wrath, you shall not enter my rest."
    2. But how does this Psalm apply to the Hebrews living so long after David? And how does this Psalm apply to us?
    3. In this, we are all tempted to fall away in like manner.

Take Care Brothers

  1. There is need of care in the Christian life.
  2. Read Verses
  3. Take care brothers. Lest there be in any of you an evil unbelieving heart leading you to fall away.
  4. We think, surely I would never fall away from God, I do not need to take such care. I hope to convince you and myself otherwise.
  5. This is the point of the sermon to convince us all of the great need we all have to take care not to fall away from the living God.
  6. We all need to take this care
    1. The caution is given to the whole people, he speaks to them collectively, take care lest there be in any of you. Consequently, this falls on every individual.
These warnings are not given merely to professors in general, whose condition is dubious whether they are true believers or no; nor unto those that are entering only on the ways of Christ, lest they should recoil and desert them; but they are given unto all true believers, those of the greatest growth and attainments, Phil. 3:11–13, that they may know how indispensably necessary, from the appointment of God and the nature of the thing itself, our watchful diligence and endeavours are unto our abiding in Christ

Brothers

  1. This care is to be taken by Christians. These words are to brothers, brothers of whom he is confident that they have been saved, are being saved, and will be saved. Nevertheless, great care is to be taken by them and by us as well.
  2. This is further supported by the next verses.
  3. Hebrews 3:15–19 15As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” 16For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? 17And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief. ESV
  4. Who should have taken care of old? All who left Egypt. How many of them did take care? Almost none. What was the result? God swore in his wrath that they would not enter into his rest. They were unable to enter because of unbelief.
  5. But it will be argued, what need of there of this great care. God has promised to bring us safe to heaven. Surely he will keep his promise.
    1. Many would call it faith to not be careful in this way, because they trust in the promises of God.
      1. Did God not promise to bring his people safe into the promised land.
    2. Yet the stark reality of an entire generation dying in the wilderness remains.
    3. God will indeed keep his promise, but will you be a part of its fulfilment or not. There will be a heaven and there will be people there, but will you be one of them or not.
      1. If you would go to heaven, there is need of great care in your heavenly journey.
  6. This need of taking great care, is common in the scriptures. Both by direct warnings and by example.
  7. For direct warnings, teaching us to take care:
    1. Romans 11:20–21 They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. 21For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. ESV
    2. Hebrews 4:1 1Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. ESV
    3. 1 Peter 1:17 17And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, ESV
    4. Philippians 2:12b work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, ESV
    5. Ephesians 5:15–16 15Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. ESV
    6. Proverbs 28:14 14Blessed is the one who fears the LORD always, but whoever hardens his heart will fall into calamity. ESV
    7. Proverbs 22:3 3The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it. ESV
    8. 2 Corinthians 7:1 1Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God. ESV
  8. For examples, teaching us to take care:
    1. Saul was chosen by God to be king yet he thought he didn't have to take great care to obey God in the matter of the Amalekites. For this he loses his kingship and perhaps his soul as well.
    2. The Jews were saved by God out of Egypt, yet they did not take great care to trust and obey. Instead they presumed on God's patience and long suffering. As a result they perished in the desert under God's wrath.
    3. In Jeremiah's day, God's people had stopped taking care because of the temple. We cannot be lost like the tribes of the North for we have the temple. God cannot destroy this temple, so long as we have it, we are safe and need not take any great care for our souls.
      1. Jeremiah 7:4 4Do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD.’ ESV
      2. Jeremiah 7:8–15 8“Behold, you trust in deceptive words to no avail. 9Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, 10and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’—only to go on doing all these abominations? 11Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, I myself have seen it, declares the LORD. 12Go now to my place that was in Shiloh, where I made my name dwell at first, and see what I did to it because of the evil of my people Israel. 13And now, because you have done all these things, declares the LORD, and when I spoke to you persistently you did not listen, and when I called you, you did not answer, 14therefore I will do to the house that is called by my name, and in which you trust, and to the place that I gave to you and to your fathers, as I did to Shiloh. 15And I will cast you out of my sight, as I cast out all your kinsmen, all the offspring of Ephraim. ESV
      3. Jeremiah 7:16 16“As for you, do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer for them, and do not intercede with me, for I will not hear you. ESV
    4. The Hebrews of Christ's day by in large were broken off because of unbelief
      1. Romans 11:20–22 20That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. 21For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. 22Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. ESV
  1. There is need of great care, heedfulness, watchfulness, and circumspection, that we may persevere in our heavenly journey
He that walks in the midst of snares and serpents, and goes on confidently, without consideration of his danger, as if his paths were all smooth and safe, will one time or other be entangled or bitten.

An Evil Heart of Unbelief

  1. What happens if we do not take care?
    1. lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God
    2. There is such a heart of unbelief that causes men to fall away from the living God.
the unbelief here intended by the apostle is this privative unbelief, consisting in the rejection of the truth of the gospel after it hath been received and professed
  1. This is the sin of unbelief. It is a terrible offence to the living God and it can only be commited by those who know the living God.
  2. The sin of unbelief is a sin against God's love, care, and faithfulness. Heb 6:4-6, Heb 10:26-27
    1. Others sin against a God who they do not know. Christians sin against the God that they do know
There is an unbelief that consists in a rejection of the truth of the gospel after that it hath been admitted, acknowledged, and professed.
Herein consists the highest acting of the depraved nature of man. And it is on many accounts the greatest provocation of God that a creature can make himself guilty of.
It accumulates the heart with a dreadful guilt of ingratitude against God, which before profession it was incapable of.
To depart from him who will be so great a reward unto them that obey him, and so severe a judge of them that forsake him, what greater guilt or folly is the nature of man capable of?
This, then, renders the heart base and evil, and gives it an utter dislike of communion or intercourse with God.
  1. This is what is intended by falling away from the living God. You just don't love him anymore or believe him anymore. God says to you, "I love you" you say back to him, "I know, I just don't care"
  1. Beginning / End
    1. The beginning of this sin is when a Christian's heart first begins to slide into lukewarmness, a loss of his first-love, a falling away from God
    2. The end of this sin is a total renunciation of the gospel. It is a falling out of love with God. It is rejecting him, his ways, his love, his mercy, his care.
    3. Paul treats of the beginnings of this sin here, by warning against the end of this sin. Don't start down this road, for here is where it leads.
      1. The means of not falling away totally is to be watchful over the beginnings of this sin.
  2. Let me say this as clearly as I can. It is not safe to be lukewarm. If you miss everything else in this sermon, hear at least these seven words: It is never safe to be lukewarm.
    1. This is one of the easiest points to make Biblically. God has not hidden this away as secret knowledge for only some astute searchers to find. He shouts it from the scriptures. He thunders it. He pleads it. He warns against it over and over. What more could God say to make this clear. What example could he give that he has not already given. At great heartache to himself, he forsook his own people leaving an entire generation to die in the wilderness so that you today might understand this point. It is not safe to grow distant from him.
    2. Every sin aims after the chief of its kind. Every lust would be adultery, every hatred would be murder, but all sin whatever if not repented will drag you down into lukewarmness and its end is the unforgivable sin of unbelief. Watch carefully against every sin. But watch most diligently against the encroaches of lukewarmness into your heart leading you towards a heart of unbelief.
It is the duty of every individual believer to be intent on all occasions, lest at any time, or by any means, there should be found in him “an evil heart of unbelief.”
It is good to have this spring of all our danger in the course of our profession continually in our eye. Here it lies, the root of it is here laid open; and if it be not continually watched against, all our other endeavours to persevere blameless unto the end are and will be in vain.
  1. This end state, if it is reached, is irrecoverable.
There is a degree of this unbelief which puts a soul absolutely into an irrecoverable condition in this world. For whereinsoever the formality of the sin against the Holy Ghost that shall not be pardoned doth consist, yet this is the matter of it, and without which it is impossible that any one should be guilty of that sin. There must be a renunciation of truth known and professed, or the guilt of that sin cannot be contracted. This again puts...
  1. This is the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit; the unforgivable sin, and it puts a soul into an irrecoverable condition.
    1. (Note, most will say to you, take no great care against the unforgivable sin, Christians cannot commit it anyway. There is no need to fear. Paul says, there is great need to fear.)
  2. Inescapable in Hebrews
    1. how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation Heb 2:3
    2. Hebrews 3:11 11As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’ ” ESV
    3. Hebrews 3:19 19So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief. ESV
    4. It is impossible to restore them again to repentance Heb 6:4, 6
    5. There no longer remains a sacrifice for sins Heb 10:26
    6. Esau, "found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears" Heb 12:17
    7. 2 Peter 2:21 21For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. ESV
It is good to have this spring of all our danger in the course of our profession continually in our eye. Here it lies, the root of it is here laid open; and if it be not continually watched against, all our other endeavours to persevere blameless unto the end are and will be in vain.

Exhort one another

  1. Our passage presents us with several means of preventing this great sin. The first is our taking care, as I have been pleading for. This means is personal and private. The next means is corporate. Exhort one another.
  2. Hebrews 3:13 13But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. ESV
  3. We are called to encourage one another which is a means against being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin
  4. What it isn't
    1. I do not believe God casts off his people for any particular sin
    2. I do not believe the lesson of this verse is such:
      1. God commanded. The people disobeyed. Therefore God punished them, casting them away under his wrath and curse.
    3. God does not punish every disobedience with this inescapable wrath and curse. He is much more patient than that. Our God defines long suffering.
      1. Exodus 34:6b “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, ESV
    4. The story of this people is not that they sinned here or there, or even that they sinned greatly. They had sinned almost every way there was to sin and yet God forgave them and restored them into fellowship with him over and over again. And I believe that patience would have continued on unto eternity.
    5. Yet over time, in these many sins the hearts of the people grew hard, grew evil, grew cold and unfeeling. They stopped believing God, though he was about to show the whole world his glory in bringing his people into the promised land they would not go in, but fell away from the living God.
    6. It is not a careful watch against anything that looks like it might be a particular sin.
There is, indeed, a causeless suspicion that some are apt to indulge unto, instead of this watchful jealousy. But this is the bane of churches and of love, as that is the preservation of them both. The apostle placeth ὑπόνοιας πονηράς, “evil surmises,” or “suspicions,” among the works of “men of corrupt minds,” 1 Tim. 6:4, and that deservedly; but this godly, watchful jealousy, is that which he commends unto others in the example of himself.
  1. What it is
    1. The beginnings of the sin of unbelief happen in us every single day. If you have tasted God, you know the fire that comes from knowing him and loving him. And you know how quickly that fire gets colder. The only remedy for this is to go to God again. You cannot stop the slide into lukewarmness merely by preventative measures. Only daily close walking with God prevents this slide. There is no substitute for this.
    2. This is what we are to exhort one another in. Daily walking close with God.
  2. The difference
    1. One makes God look small, you look big, and the other person look worthless
    2. The other makes God look big, you look small, and the other person highly loved of God but also highly in danger of drifting away from God
    3. It prevents accosting people who are growing.
Exhortation is nothing but an encouragement given unto others to walk with us or after us in the ways of God and the gospel. “Be followers of me,” saith our apostle, “as I am of Christ.”

The Deceitfulness of Sin

  1. The end of this exhortation is: "that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin"
  2. Sin is deceitful
  3. Sin lulls us into a false sense of security and complacency
  4. Sin tricks us into thinking our lusts are not that bad, that they are understandable
  5. No one falls into apostasy intentionally. No one thinks that they will hardened, but many are tricked by the deceitfulness of sin.
    1. The Hebrews that this letter is addressing never considered their actions as apostatizing from the living God. In their mind, what they were falling away from was merely a particular way of worship, attended with many difficulties and persecutions, perhaps they might please God just as well through some other way, especially if that other way was the way their fathers walked in, a good way, a way ordained by God.
    2. And so they were in danger of being deceived. This deceit had already grown among them and they were in the beginnings of being led astray under its call and becon. An easy way to heaven. A broad way. An honorable way. A way that makes sense to us and that we can understand.
    3. There is only one way to heaven. It is narrow. It is hard. The world hates it and those who walk on it will be dishonored in the eyes of the world. It is God's way and it will not make any sense to the mind of flesh. This is God's way, do not be deceived out of it.
The best way to antidote the soul against sin, is to represent it unto the mind in its true nature and tendency.
He presents it here naked unto them, as a fatal defection and apostasy from the living God.
Hence the great contest that is in the mind, when it is hurried up and down with any temptation, is, whether it shall fix itself on these right considerations of sin, or suffer itself at the present to be carried away with the vain pleas of its temptation in its attempt to palliate and cover it. And on this contest depends the final issue of the matter.
  1. Genesis 39:9b Joseph to Potiphar's wife How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” ESV

Share in Christ / Original Confidence

  1. Hebrews 3:14 14For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. ESV
  2. This is the first positive declaration of what the rest is that we should enter into.
  3. The rest is highly related to being a partaker of Christ, ones who have come to share in Christ.
    1. This is our union with him. We are make partakers of Christ.
    2. He was partaker of us, partook of us. How? By taking flesh and blood by taking on our nature.
    3. How, then, are we partakers of him, partakers of Christ? It is by our having an interest in his nature, by the communication of his Spirit, as he had in ours by the assumption of our flesh.
He became poor for our sakes, by a participation of our nature, that we through his poverty may be rich in a participation of his, 2 Cor. 8:9 9For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. ESV
  1. "if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end"
    1. This rest which is highly related to being a partaker of Christ comes about as a result of confidence or original confidence as the ESV renders it.
    2. This will be a more difficult point to make, so let me first jump to the conclusion of it. This refers also to our union with Christ and the result of that union as we abide in him and sap flows from him to us
      1. As he is the vine and we are the branches, so the beginning of our life in him is in our ingrafting into the vine so that life giving sap will flow from him to us, so the continuance of the Christian life is our abiding in the vine so that the sap continues to flow from him to us, for in ourselves we have no life nor power, but all is from him and through him (that all might be to him).
    3. How do I get all of that from the phrase original confidence
    4. This goes beyond my skill as an interpreter. Please bear with me.
  2. Hypostasis (who-PWS-sta-'C's) as essence or substance
    1. Three hypostases in one ousia — three persons in one nature or essence
    2. Think rootedness. (Best English correlation I can come up with)
    3. For God the Father, what is rootedness?
    4. For God the Son, what is rootedness?
      1. Hebrews 1:3 3He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature
    5. For us, what is our rootedness?
      1. Rootedness for God speaks of his person for he is his own root.
      2. As I abide in my Father so you abide in me. As the Father is my head, so I am your head.
      3. Rootedness for us speaks of the result of our rootedness in whatever our root is. Thus it is rendered:
        1. Expectation, hope, firm, preservation, lifespan, faith, confidence
        2. Some by ἀρχὴ τῆς ὑποστάσεως understand the gospel, some faith, some hope, some confidence, some Christ himself.
      4. All of these speak to the result of being rooted and grounded in Christ
        1. All of these are appropriate translations because the original Greek word represents more than any of them by themselves
    6. Summarize of of this thus: a confidence grounded on our subsistence in Christ which yields a boldness to enter into that rest.
  3. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end
    1. For we abide in Christ we are partakers of his nature and he of ours. We abide in him and he with us
    2. Our confidence is our abiding
    3. We have come to abide in Christ if indeed we abide in Christ firm to the end.
  4. Therefore, abide
    1. Jesus tells us: "abide in me and I in you"
    2. We are told by Christ to preserve and maintain our union in him. Paul is now reinforcing this command to us and to the Hebrews.

Abide

  1. The third means of not falling into the sin of unbelief: Abide.
    1. 1st, Take cakevs 12, 2nd Exhortvs 13, 3rd Abidevs 14
Union with Christ is the principle and measure of all spiritual enjoyments and expectations.
It is the principle and measure of all spiritual enjoyments.
All our grace is but a participation of the root,
Our uniting unto Christ consists in or immediately arises from the communication of his Spirit unto us
Our union with him is the ground of the actual imputation of his righteousness unto us; for he covers only the members of his own body with his own garments, nor will cast a skirt over any who is not “bone of his bones, and flesh of his flesh.” And so he is “of God made unto us righteousness,” 1 Cor. 1:30.
And men do but labour in the fire, who, in the pursuit of their convictions, endeavour after holiness or the due performance of good works, without deriving strength for them from their relation unto Christ
And we may see hence how great our concernment is to inquire diligently into this foundation of all grace, mercy, and glory. If we fail here, as too many seem to do, we do but run in vain, and build in vain, and boast in vain, for all will be lost and perish
our constancy and perseverance, as I have showed, are an effect of our union with Christ
Let not men, therefore, please themselves in their present attainments and condition, unless they find that they are thriving, growing, passing on towards perfection; which is the best evidence of their union with Christ.
The words denote our utmost endeavour to hold it fast, and to keep it firm and steadfast. Shaken it will be, opposed it will be; kept it will not, it cannot be, without our utmost diligence and endeavour
It is true our persistency in Christ doth not, as to the issue and event, depend absolutely on our own diligence. The unalterableness of our union with Christ, on the account of the faithfulness of the covenant of grace, is that which doth and shall eventually secure it. But yet our own diligent endeavour is such an indispensable means for that end, as that without it it will not be brought about; for it is necessary to the continuance of our subsistency in Christ
Diligence and endeavours in this matter are like Paul’s mariners, when he was shipwrecked at Melita. God had beforehand given him the lives of all that sailed with him in the ship, Acts 27:24; and he believed that it should be even as God had told him, verse 25. So now the preservation of their lives depended absolutely on the faithfulness and power of God. But yet when the mariners began to flee out of the ship, Paul tells the centurion and the soldiers that unless those men stayed they could not be saved, verse 31. But what need he think of shipmen, when God had promised and taken upon himself the preservation of them all? He knew full well that he would preserve them, but yet that he would do so in and by the use of means
Acts 27:24 behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you. Acts 27:25 take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. Acts 27:31 “Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.”
Unless we use our own diligent endeavours, “we cannot be saved.” 1 Corinthians 10:12 12Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. ESV
It is altogether in vain to expect true peace, solid consolation, or a thriving in fruitfulness, in a slothful profession. These things depend wholly on our spiritual industry. Men complain of the fruit, but will not be persuaded to dig up the root. For all our spiritual troubles, darkness, disconsolations, fears, doubts, barrenness, they all proceed from this bitter root of negligence, which springs up and defiles us. Those, then, that know how to value these things may do well to consider how the loss of them may be obviated avoided
And is it any wonder if we see so many either decaying or unthrifty professors, and so many that are utterly turned off from their first engagements? For consider what it is to abide in Christ;—what watchfulness, what diligence, what endeavours are required thereunto! Men would have it to be a plant that needs neither watering, manuring, nor pruning, but that which will thrive alone of itself;
[Jesus says] “He that endures to the end shall be saved,” Matt. 10:22. It is enduring faith that is true faith, and which evidences us indeed to be partakers of Christ.

Conclusion

[Paul] lets them know that all their interest in Christ, and all the benefits they did expect or might be made partakers of by him, did depend upon their answering his exhortation unto constancy and perseverance in their profession; and, moreover, that whereas men are apt to wax weary and faint, or to grow slothful in the course of their profession, sometimes so soon almost as they are entered into it, unless they continue the same diligence and earnestness of endeavours as at the first, so as to abide steadfast unto the end, they would have no benefit either by Christ or the gospel, but rather fall assuredly under that indignation of God which he had newly warned them of. This in general is the design of the words.

It is never safe to be lukewarm.