Exhort One Another Every Day Back to all sermons

Date: September 18, 2015

Speaker: Pastor Steve Fuller

Scripture: Hebrews 3:12–3:14

Tags: fellowship, life groups, small groups

Synopsis: In Hebrews 3:12-14 the author warns us about two dangers our brothers and sisters face, and tells us what we can do to protect them from those dangers.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

This morning I want to start by asking you a question: how do you see fellowship? How do you think about your relationships with other believers? How important is fellowship to you?

I used to think fellowship was like being with a group of people on a cruise ship to a vacation resort. I was thankful I was on the cruise ship, I was looking forward to the final destination of heaven, and on the way I enjoyed getting to know others on the cruise ship -- lounging by the pool with them, enjoying the buffet with them, maybe trying some skeet-shooting with them. That’s how I used to view fellowship with other believers – It was fun, it was comfortable, and there is nothing crucial at stake.

But what I discovered is that this is not how the Bible describes fellowship. The Bible says fellowship is not like being on a cruise ship. Fellowship is like being on a search-and-rescue team in the high mountains during a terrible blizzard. We are there to rescue lost people. But as we trudge through the blizzard we know that we ourselves face dangers — getting lost, wandering off a cliff, or dying in the cold. And so as we search for lost people, we also need to look out for each other, to make sure we are all staying together, so none of us falls into danger.

This morning I want to help us see from God’s Word that fellowship is not like being on a cruise ship to heaven. It is like being on a search-and-rescue team in a blizzard. And one passage that clearly teaches this truth is Hebrews 3:12-14. Let’s read that passage –

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.

Notice that at the beginning of verse 12 the author says “take care, brothers.” That word “take care” means there is some danger that we need to beware of and watch out for. It’s like how careful you would be if you were hiking through a dangerous jungle full of poisonous snakes and hungry lions.

So the author of Hebrews urges us to take care, to beware, and to watch out for our brothers and sisters – because they face serious danger. So what dangers do our brothers and sisters face?

The author says we all face two dangers. The first is in verse 12 —

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

So we all face the danger of having an evil, unbelieving heart. Even though we have been saved through trusting Jesus, there is still some sin remaining in our hearts. And sin can cause our hearts to become evil and unbelieving — like last week when I read something on Facebook, and my heart started to fill with jealousy. That’s the beginnings of an evil, unbelieving heart.

And why is that so dangerous? The author tells us in verse 12: it’s because if our hearts become evil and unbelieving, and if we allow our evil unbelief to grow, that could end up hardening our hearts so we don’t want to turn back to Jesus with genuine confession in faith, and we end up falling away from God.

But does that mean someone be saved at one point, and then lose their salvation later? I believe the answer is No. And the reason is because when God saves us he promises that he will keep us persevering in faith all the way to heaven.

But one of the ways he keeps us persevering is by putting warning signs like v.12 along the road — “Don’t come too close or you’ll fall away to eternal destruction.” Those are true warnings . But because you have been saved, your heart will respond to those warnings by pulling back from sin, and crying out to Jesus to help you. And he always will. But the warnings are real, and describe a true danger that we all face.

So look around at all of us here this morning. This passage teaches that we all face a great danger -- the danger of having an evil, unbelieving heart which could cause us to fall away from the living God.

That’s the first danger. The second danger is described in verse 13. Let’s read that again –

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.

So we can be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. None of us is above this. Don’t think “I am so strong in the Lord that I could never be deceived.” Don’t think “my Christian friends are so sure that they can never be deceived.” No. The author of Hebrews says that any of us could be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

Again, even though we have been saved, we still have sin left in us. And sin can deceive us. Sin can deceive us so we think prayer is not important, or that it’s right not to forgive that person, or that a little lust won’t hurt anyone. Sin can deceive us.

And this is dangerous because, as the author tells us in verse 13, sin’s deceptions can harden us. Salvation softens our hearts, so we love Jesus, we worship Jesus, we bow before Jesus. But sin’s deceptions harden our hearts, so we grow cold towards Jesus, we worship other things besides Jesus, we don’t find pleasure in Jesus.

But here’s the good news. Even at this point, if we will cry out to Jesus for help, he will answer. He will bring his power upon us and set us free from sin’s deceptions and bring our hearts back to him with love and forgiveness and grace. But the problem is that if we let sin’s deceptions continue, they can harden our hearts so much that we don’t want to cry out to Jesus, we don’t want to turn back to Jesus. And if that happens then we will fall away from the living God.

So the author of Hebrews wants us to understand that we all face two dangers – the danger of an evil, unbelieving heart which could make us fall away from God, and the danger of being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. And the author of Hebrews says that we are to take care – we are to be on the alert — to protect our brothers and sisters in Christ from these dangers.

So how can we protect them from these dangers? He tells us in verse 13 –

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.

So how do we protect each other from these dangers? By exhorting one another. That word “exhort” includes encouraging one another, comforting one another, warning one another, and sharing God’s word with one another.

Years ago when I was an assistant pastor at a church I had a pattern of showing up late to appointments. It was rooted in my pride, thinking that I was more important than other people. And as a result, I was regularly late to meetings.

But one day I got a phone call from a young man in our church who said he wanted to meet with me. So I drove to his house, assuming that he needed help with some spiritual struggle.

But when we sat down, he very humbly said that he was concerned about how often I was late to appointments. He shared some Scripture about the importance of thinking more highly of others than ourselves. He pointed me to Jesus who would forgive me and help me, and then he prayed for me. And God used this young man to set me free from sin’s deception, and from an evil heart of unbelief. And I was changed.

And the author of Hebrews calls us to exhort one another. But notice that he calls us to exhort one another every day. Why every day? It’s because we battle unbelief every day. We battle sin’s deceptions every day. So every day we should comfort each other with God’s word, every day we should strengthen each other with God’s promises, every day we should speak God’s truth to each other. Every day.

And he says we should do this as long as it is called today. What does that mean? When he talks about “today,” he’s talking about this time before Jesus returns when salvation is still available. Once Jesus returns, it’s too late to repent and trust Christ. But before Jesus returns, it’s not too late. So exhort one another every day, while it still today.

So here is what we have seen so far. The author of Hebrews says we all face the danger of an evil, unbelieving heart, and the danger of being deceived by sin’s deceptions. But he says there is something we can do to protect each other from those dangers — exhorting each other every day.

Here’s how one commentator puts it –

“To make sure that an evil heart of unbelief does not appear in any one of them, the community as a whole as well as each member within it is to be vigilant and constant in their care for others by mutual exhortation.” (P. T. O’Brien)

Now this has massive implication for church life. This passage says we all face the danger of falling away from God because of evil unbelief and the deceptions of sin. And Friday morning preaching, as important as it is, is not enough to protect us from that danger. God says that what will protect us from that danger is each of us exhorting each other every day — keep trusting Jesus, don’t be deceived by sin, set your eyes on heaven!

So how can this church be structured so that we are all exhorting each other? The answer is by encouraging everyone to be in a small group which meets once a week, and whose members exhort and encourage each other every day.

For example, a week ago I shared with my Grace Church small group about a worry I was battling. They shared promises from God’s word with me, and prayed for me. Then two days later one of them sent me an encouraging text message. And the next day one of them asked how it was going and said he was praying for me. That strengthened and encouraged me to pray, trust Christ, and not give in to worry. That’s how small groups work.

So this morning I want to encourage you to join a small group. Here at ECC they are called “Life Groups.” If you are in a life group you will be part of a group of people who will encourage you every day, and you will be part of a group of people whom you can encourage every day. You will regularly exhort each other so that none of you will be hardened by sin’s deceptions and fall away from God.

But there’s a problem. Life in Abu Dhabi is busy. There’s long days at work, driving kids to school, getting the shopping done. So it’s easy to think we don’t have time.

And that’s why the author of Hebrews writes verse 14. Notice the word “for” at the beginning of this verse. That shows in verse 14 is giving a reason for why we should do verse 13. So let’s ask – why should we exhort each other every day? Look at what he says in verse 14 –

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

What does that mean? To “come to share in Christ” is another way of describing salvation. And to “hold our original confidence firm to the end” is another way of describing keeping strong in trusting Jesus, and not letting evil unbelief or sin’s deceptions lead us away.

So verse 14 is saying that we have been saved if we keep trusting Jesus and don’t get drawn away to sin.

And when we understand that, you understand why it is so important that we exhort each other every day. You need to be exhorted every day, because you have come to share in Christ, if you hold your faith strong to the end. And your brothers and sisters need to be exhorted every day, because they have come to share in Christ’s, if they hold their faith strong to the end.

So if we want to be in heaven, and if we want our brothers and sisters to be in heaven, then we will invest time in exhorting them, and being exhorted by them. We believe in once saved, always saved. We believe in eternal security. But the author of Hebrews tells us that eternal security is a community effort – a group project.

So can you see that fellowship is not like being on a cruise ship heading to heaven? Fellowship is like being on a search-and-rescue team in a raging blizzard, where real dangers make us look out for each other, encourage each other, and exhort each other.

That’s why I want to urge you to be part of a life group. It’s because we have come to share in Christ, if we keep trusting Jesus. And God will use their exhortation to keep you trusting Jesus. And God will use your exhortation to keep them trusting Jesus.