“Exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”
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Hebrews 3:12 (ESV)
HARD OR SOFT HEARTS
We recently began a new sermon series on ‘Cultivating Christian Community.’ This series will be exploring several of the ‘one another’ commands given to Christians throughout the New Testament. Most of these fall into categories of ‘love,’ ‘unity’ and ‘humility.’
Then, there are several miscellaneous ‘one another’s’ that give other specific direction with how to cultivate a community which truly reflects God’s heart. This week’s passage from falls into miscellaneous category and is perhaps the best place to begin. In verse 12, the Lord commands Christians to exhort (or talk) to other Christians every day. We may think that daily conversations sound excessive, but the text goes on to suggest that we need words of encouragement, comfort, rebuke, etc. in order to prevent us from being hardened by sin’s deceit. What is the difference between a hard and soft heart? Let’s explore!
Can you recall Pharaoh’s reaction when Moses and his brother first asked him to release the Israelites from Egyptian slavery? “His heart was hardened and he would not listen to them” (Ex. 7:22b). Pharaoh was closed off to God’s power, closed off to His message and closed off from caring for God’s people.
It seems odd to believe that we, followers of Jesus, could find ourselves in a similar spiritual condition as Pharaoh, but it is possible. The Apostle John described this as ‘walking in darkness.’ According to Scripture, this kind of hardheartedness can manifest itself in a variety of ways. Here are three.
First, we can close ourselves off to God’s redemptive power and believe that we either have no sin or that God cannot overcome the sin that we do have (1 John 1:8, 2:2).
Second, hardheartedness can manifest itself in us when we close ourselves off from His message. When we close our Bibles and look for other “relevant” sources of wisdom, our heart is already calcifying (4:6).
Third, when we stop loving other Christians, our heart is in trouble. “Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness” (2:9). It is this third kind which is usually most visible to others, but all three are cancerous for us.
The Lord has called Christians into spiritual community with others because He doesn’t want us to become hardhearted. In order for us to cultivate soft-hearts, there is relational work for us to do every single day. Attending the corporate gathering on a Sunday morning is just the beginning and the launching pad for such relationships.
Softhearted Christians initiate spiritual conversations with other Christians throughout the week because they recognize that they need it.
Softhearted Christians ask people to hold them accountable to spiritual habits and battles with temptation.
Softhearted Christians demonstrate through their priorities that they cannot follow Jesus alone.
As we begin this new series, you are encouraged to evaluate your connection with Christian community and seek out ways to strengthen it – for the benefit of your soul.
Lord, keep our hearts soft towards you and one another and help us find new ways to connect, every day. Through Jesus, Amen!