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Listening Closely to God

August 19, 2018 Speaker: Gibson Largent Series: Hebrews

Passage: Hebrews 3:7–19

Hebrews 3:7-19


  • The folly of preaching - why God would choose to speak through a person is one of the great mysteries of the faith.
  • We understand and believe that God speaks to us.
  • We understand and believe that God can speak through preaching.
  • We believe this mystery that God chooses to speak through regular broken people who don’t have it all together
    • See 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 - “[26] For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. [27] But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; [28] God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, [29] so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. [30] And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, [31] so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” 
  • We understand and believe that God speaks primarily through the preserved Word of God contained in the 66 books that make up the bible.
  • And it is within that preserved Word of God that we see the most clear way that God speaks: through Jesus Christ
    • Hebrews 1:1–2 - “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, [2] but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.”
  • And this morning we recognize that if God knows us (no one knows you better than He does and no one loves you more than He does)
    • And we see from the Bible a revelation of who God is - that He is love, He is mercy, He is patient, He is kind, He is compassionate - He is fundamentally good
    • If He knows and He speaks to us, then we ought to listen to a good Father who loves us and all those things I just mentioned
  • But you might ask, “if he is so good then why do bad things happen?” 
    • The simplistic answer is that we don’t listen to the good God who speaks to us
    • People don’t believe (1) that there is a god, or (2) that if there is a god that he speaks, or (3) that if there is a speaking good God who loves me that because I can’t see him or hear him speak I refuse to believe him or trust him or place my faith in him.
  • This is the issue that the author of Hebrews brings to light in this passage
    • God speaks
    • We don’t listen
    • Because we don’t believe
    • Because we have a hardened, closed heart to God

Main Pastoral Point:

Soften your heart to the Lord by listening carefully and expressing trust in the God who is speaking to you

If you are already a devoted follower of Jesus, there is a warning here: do not fall away

Purpose statement: by the end of this sermon…

  • How do you know if you have a hard heart?
  • What do you do if you have a hard heart?

Main Text:

Hebrews 3:7-19

[7] Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice,

[8] do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness,

[9] where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years.

[10] Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.’

[11] As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’”

[12] Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 

[13] But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 

[14] For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. 

[15] As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”

[16] For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? 

[17] And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 

[18] And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? 

[19] So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.

Main Points:

  • There are several big ideas in this text worthy of our consideration:
    • Hard heart
    • Straying heart
    • Evil unbelieving heart
    • Resulting in rebellion, testing God, provoking God, straying, have not known God, evil, unbelieving, hardened, deceived, disobedient
    • Rest for the Israelite delivered from Egypt = the promised land
    • Rest for us = heaven
    • Believers who fall away - a painful reality
    • Reveals that they were never genuine believers to begin with
    • Paris Reidhead sermon “Ten Shekels and a Shirt”
      • We come to God as a means to our end and when He doesn’t deliver our end we bail on him
      • That is not genuine faith
    • A tender heart toward God listens and obeys
    • God speaks (I covered that briefly at the beginning (if you’re struggling with that concept alone I can help you - see me afterward)
    • Hardened hearts\Heart is an important concept in this passage:
    • The idea of rest (more on that next week)
    • The warning for followers of Jesus to not fall away from faith (vs. 12)
    • The doctrine of perseverance of the saints (vs. 14)
    • Listening to God with a softened heart
    • The hard reality that many people will not enter God’s eternal rest because of unbelief, though they were here in the church
  • Here’s where we will focus this morning:
  • (1) Hardened hearts
    • Heart: “the Bible considers the heart to be the hub of human personality, producing the things we would ordinarily ascribe to the “mind.”
    • To have a hardened heart is to have a range of symptoms that are generally in opposition to someone or something
      • Might include stubbornness, disbelief, doubt, hate, indifference, or disregard
    • Mark 8:17–21 - [17] And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? [18] Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? [19] When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” [20] “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” [21] And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?” (ESV)
    • Jesus used hard heartedness here to depict their unwillingness to believe or see beyond what’s directly in front of them
    • (1) You suspect that God is real and that He speaks and even that He is trying to speak to you but you refuse to listen
      • They refuse to listen
      • The difference between hearing and listening
      • They “heard” but they didn’t “listen”
      • Author points to the Exodus generation
      • Craig’s sister closing her eyes
      • Kids holding their ears
      • People avoiding church, checking out during the sermon, rolling their eyes, sighing, shifting, sleeping, checking their phone or watch
      • I don’t care necessarily about those things by the way - I’m not the sermon police haha - I’m just saying it reveals a hardened heart
    • (2) Even if you hear his voice, you do not regard in any way what you hear
      • There’s no obedience
      • There’s delayed obedience (which is disobedience)
      • There’s plain old disobedience
      • And then there’s just rebellion
      • This is in verse 8 of our text - God spoke clearly and the Israelites rebelled - they went the opposite direction 
    • (3) Putting God to the test
      • Romans 1:18-36 describes the clarity with which God has made himself known - CDAO - creation design art order (the observable world is not the product of random chaotic chance - entropy - 2nd law of thermodynamics
      • But we put God to the test whenever we disregard the clear ways He makes himself known and demand more evidence
      • It’s usually self serving evidence by the way - help me win the lottery and I’ll believe - give me a maserati and I’ll believe - give me a better life and I’ll believe
      • Provoking God
    • (4) Hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (for believers)
      • “Sin causes hearts to grow hard, especially continual and unrepentant sin. Now we know that “if we confess our sins, [Jesus] is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins” (1 John 1:9). However, if we don’t confess our sins, they have a cumulative and desensitizing effect on the conscience, making it difficult to even distinguish right from wrong. And this sinful and hardened heart is tantamount to the “seared conscience” Paul speaks of in 1Timothy 4:1–2. Scripture makes it clear that if we relentlessly continue to engage in sin, there will come a time when God will give us over to our “debased mind” and let us have it our way. The apostle Paul writes about God’s wrath of abandonment in his letter to the Romans where we see that godless and wicked “men who suppress the truth” are eventually given over to the sinful desires of their hardened hearts (Romans 1:18–24).”
      • At its core, the deceitfulness of sin basically says that blank will provide for me blank instead of trusting in God or obeying God
      • Let’s fill in the blanks:
        • You’re going through a trial and you see an illegal shortcut through the trial - the deceitfulness of sin says cheating/breaking the law will solve my problems instead of giving it to God and allowing him to have his way in this matter
        • You have a mountain of troubles and you just want to escape - the deceitfulness of sin says divorce/drinking/drugs/revenge/movies/netflix/laziness/wine/spending money or other will resolve my issue or give comfort in the midst of my issue rather than trusting God and walking through the troubles in faith
      • Do you see how this works?
      • The deceitfulness of sin tries to convince you that there is another way other than faith/trust/obedience to God
      • Adam and Eve in the garden - serpent - you can be like God by disobeying - there’s another way
      • The deceitfulness of sin
    • (4) Pride (honorable mention) is a heart hardener
      • I’ve got this
      • I don’t need God
      • I don’t pray
      • Have you prayed?
      • Prayerlessness is our declaration of independence from God…
    • How do you know if you have a hard heart?
    • The author of Hebrews helps us diagnose the condition of hard heartedness:
  • (2) The warning for followers of Jesus 
    • “When Barnabbas arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.” (Acts 11:23)
    • “When the congregation was dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God.” (Acts 13:43)
    • “Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith.” (Acts 14:21-22)
    • “I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard!” (Acts 20:29-31)
    • Here we see the constant words to remain true, and to remain faithful. The early disciples certainly thought these words of warning were very much needed. We of course get heaps more such strong warnings, especially in the book of Hebrews, with passages such as Heb. 2:1-4; 3:7-19; 10:26-31, etc.
    • And we also are told of clear examples of those who have fallen away. Just consider one such text, 1 Timothy 1:18-20: “Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith. Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.”
    • By nurturing faith
    • Feed your soul (“take care brothers lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart…” and “exhort one another every day … that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin)
      • Exhort one another 
      • How do you foster and maintain a heart of faith?
      • How do you nurture your faith and war against falling away?
      • You provide the nutrients - the soil - the environment in which it thrives
      • There is no greater food for your soul than God’s Word in the context of prayer, worship, fellowship with other believers
      • Like a perfect fire pit on a fall night with friends can be good for helping you relax and enjoy your life
      • Feeding your soul on scripture and prayer in the context of loving faithful community of Christ followers nurtures and grows your faith
    • Or you could starve your faith and watch it shrivel
  • (3) Listening to God
    • Repeated twice in 7 and 14 and again in next week’s passage
    • How do you listen to God?
    • What’s the danger in not listening?
    • We make a distinction between hearing and listening. 
      • Synonyms
        • To hear is to have such perception by means of the auditory sense: to hear distant bells. 
        • To listen is to give attention in order to hear and understand the meaning of a sound or sounds: to listen to what is being said; to listen for a well-known footstep. 4. attend. 7. regard, heed.
        • 1, 2. attend. Hear, listen apply to the perception of sound. 
      • Antonyms
        • 7. disregard.
      • ‘Hearing’ is an event; it is something which happens to us as a natural process. 
      • ‘Listening’ is an action; it is something we do consciously.
      • Laurel or Yanny?
    • Pharaoh did not listen to Moses and his heart was hardened
      • These two events (hardened heart and not listening) run closely together in the Exodus narrative
      • Are you teachable? Are you soft hearted? Are you able to learn and open your mind to the idea that God loves you and wants good for you?
      • Hard hearted = not listening in the book of Exodus
      • Does not listening and having a hard heart go together?
      • Refusing to listen is part of hardening your heart
    • The simplicity of faith
    • In the beginning of my walk with God
      • I pray, pouring out my heart in sincerity and honesty and earnestness about an issue
      • I read scripture prayerfully until God gives me peace or until He changes me or my circumstances or both
    • Do you see the rhythm? 
      • Pray and listen
      • Persistently
    • Listening to God - Today if you hear his voice do not harden your hearts

Conclusion and So What?

  • Understand your heart condition as diagnosed by God in the Bible
    • Jeremiah 17:9–10 - [9] The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? [10] “I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” (ESV)
    • Don’t follow your heart - don’t trust your heart 
    • Ezekiel 36:26–27 - [26] And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. [27] And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (ESV)