Sun, 28 September 2014
Jesus is Better
“Help for Hard Hearts”
Key Verse: Therefore, as the Holy Sprit says, “Today, if yo hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion"(Hebrews 3:7-8a).
1. The causes of a heard heart
a. Deafness can cause a hard heart
b. Doubt can cause a hard heart
c. Deceit can cause a hard heart
2. The consequences of a hard heart
a. What you don’t get
b. What you do get
3. The cures for a hard heart
a. Fellowship with one another
b. Faith in One
When I was a senior in high school, I made a New Year's resolution. And the New Year's resolution was, that I was going to learn to play the guitar. And so with great gusto, I began playing the guitar. It didn't take too many days of, hours per day on that guitar until the tips of my fingers were you form the cords on those steel strings were actually cut and bleeding a little bit. But, I didn’t give up and you know what happened with the passage of time those cuts became calluses. I don’t play the guitar that much anymore but I still when I feel the ends of my fingers, my fingertips on the left-hand, I feel that callouses still today. You know it's okay if some parts of your body get calluses on them. If you ever shaken working man's hand, you know you get that big old hand and you shake it and you feel those calluses, it serves them well because, his hand has become hardened to carry out the tasks that are his.
But there are other parts of your body that you never need to grow hard. That would be, chief of all, your heart. Your heart needs to always be supple and soft and flexible. In fact did you know, there’s a phrase, a lot of you are too young to recognize this phrase but its called, the hardening of the arteries. It’s really a term used for heart disease, when you get plaque buildup in your arteries and it restricts the flow of blood, as the passage narrows. Soon enough if you don't get enough blood to your heart, you can have a heart attack or you can have a stroke, you can die. And so you need your heart to always remain soft and pliable and supple. And so today I want to preach a message that takes that physical principle and puts it into the spiritual realm.
Just as your physical heart you cant afford it for it to get hard, spiritually; you can't afford to get a hard heart. You need a soft heart. I need a soft heart toward God. And so here's the title of today's message, help for Hard Hearts. I wonder, don’t show your hand, but I wonder how many of us would say, you know Pastor Jeff, I'm afraid, if I were to be honest, you know my heart maybe getting a little cold. A little hard. This morning I know God wants to soften our hearts so that they will be pliable in his hands and useful to Him.
So today were to get some help for hard hearts and we’re going to do so out of the book of Hebrews. That’s toward the end of your Bible, so if you would please turn there. Hebrews chapter 3 and stand to your feet in honor of God's Word. We’re about to hear the King of Heaven speak and I want you given your best attention. Hebrews chapter 3, we’re going to start in verse seven. “Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, today if you hear his voice do not harden your hearts.” you see their there's the phrase. “Do not harden your heart as in the rebellion on the day of testing in the wilderness where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for 40 years. Therefore I was provoked with that generation and said, they always go astray in their heart they have not known my ways. As I swore in my wrath, they will not enter my rest. Take care brothers. Take care sisters. Lest there be in any of you, an evil unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another, every day, as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For, as we have come to share in Christ. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end, as it is said, today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion. Lets pray. God, thank you that you speak to us. I thank you that we can hear your voice today if we if we got a heart to here. I pray that we will have soft pliable soulful hearts that are responsive to you. Awaken us to what you say today Lord and change for, Jesus sake, Amen.
Please be seated. Help for hard hearts. Let me advise you if you're visiting us today, if you’ll turn on the back of your worship guide, just flip that guide over, there’s a skeleton outline of the today's message, and really for all of our sake, it's helpful to follow along, and just jot down anything that you think God is saying to you. That you need to apply from what would we be hear today. All right. I will begin the message by talking about what causes a hard heart. What are the causes of a hard heart? First of all, a heard heart is caused by deafness. Now in the physical realm don't tend to think of hearing being related to heart. But in the Bible there's a huge connection between hearing and heart. And if were hard of hearing we will be hard of heart. God wants us always have an open ear to hear what he said. I take this from verse seven. He says, “Therefore as the Holy Spirit says, today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your heart.” what's the implication? That if you don't hear his voice, over time, your heart gets to be hard. Soon enough, you won't be able to hear it. So today, if you hear his voice, then respond to it, so that your heart will not become hard. Now heart disease, in the physical realm, can be caused by not listening to good counsel. For example, we all know that if you have a healthy heart, you need to exercise. Right? Every day do some exercise? Some cardiovascular workout. You need to watch what you eat. You need to get plenty of rest. You need to let the stress in your life go down. All of these things, that’s the counsel that you get, and if you hear it, and respond to it, it will help you have a soft healthy heart. But, if you ignore that counsel, you may get the hardening of the arteries and you have a stroke or heart attack. You may get into trouble.
Now the same thing is true spiritually. God gives us council from his word on how to live. And if you listen to his counsel, then our hearts will be soft and will be spiritually healthy. We need to listen to God. It’s dangerous not to listen to good counsel isn’t it? Let me tell you a story about a church youth group. Now all you teenagers listen to me. There was a youth group very much like ours that went on a trip to Yosemite national Park. Way out West. They were from California. So it wasn’t that fare of a drive. They went up to Yosemite and they said we're going to hike the most famous of the hikes in that great park. In it's the hike up what's called Vernal Falls. We’re going to put a picture on the screen, of this beautiful waterfall. It’s the Merced River, it falls about 317 feet at that precipice and thousands of people every year make this hike. It’s gorgeous. Well all along that hike, there are warning signs, because while it looks placid and beautiful and majestic, the truth is it's very dangerous. In fact the signs are actually in four languages, so that nobody misunderstands or fails to hear the warning. They caution about the force of the river and that the rocks are slippery. And of course, you can imagine with the falls and the mist that the bellows out from that, the rocks get slippery. And so the youth group start making its way up to the top of Vernal Falls and when they got up there, there were three of them that decided they wanted to get a picture for instagram. You young people know what I'm talking about? Something to post on Facebook I guess. And so one of the girls, well in fact three of them, the girl is the particular one that was leading the pack, they climbed over a guardrail that bordered the Merced River there the top. Now I think in part the reason they did it, is that when you're up on top, the water is actually kind of placid. In fact, they call it the Emerald Pool and other of the pictures of you can see online, I’m not going to put it on screen but either other pictures of it, and you can almost see that that placid pool of green water there at the top. It’s beautiful. It’s crystal clear and the girls said, come on ya’ll. Lets Climb over this guardrail and we’ll just go out there and stand on a rock, and ya’ll can take my picture. Harmless enough. I really can hardly blame the young people, because I could almost see me doing something foolish like that. They climbed over, got out in the river, they didn’t know it but that year, there had been a real heavy snowfall and the snowmelt have been great and the Merced River had swollen with that extra water, and the force of the river was greater than even normally was. Beneath the placid surface, the were currents that they couldn't even see. The girl got out on the rock and she slipped. She splashed into the water and her friend, alarmed of course, because they were only about 25 feet from the edge of the falls, he went out into the water to try to grab her, he lost his footing. So now the third guy was to take the picture, he goes in after those two. And before anything could be done. To the wailing screams of the whole group, those three young people were swept over the precipice to their deaths. That is a terrible story, but it's a true story. Fact, they couldn't even find their bodies for several days, because the force of the water was so great. They were pinned there on the rocks somewhere beneath the surface at the foot of the falls. What had happened? They had ignored the warnings that had been given.
Deafness can be deadly. You must listen to God's voice, because deafness can cause a hard heart, and a hard heart can be deadly. Now what else can cause a hard heart? Not only deafness, but doubt can cause a hard heart. I think most of you know the story that is in view here, in Hebrew 3. It’s actually looking back to the children of Israel, who had been enslaved in Egypt. You remember this. For about 400 years, they were enslaved there. But God never forgot about his children. He heard their cry. And he sent Moses to them to deliver them. And you'll remember that God, with miraculous power, sent plague after plague after plague and in patience, he was saying to Pharaoh, and the Egyptians, let my people go! But pharaoh was deaf to God's voice and he had a hard heart. And the Bible says he stiffened his neck against God. God continued to send those plagues until finally the night of Passover came, the death Angel came and all of the firstborn, both of the livestock and even of the male firstborn sons of every family, died in the Egypt. God spared the Israelites. Finally Pharaoh and the Egyptians said please go! And out went the Israelites in great freedom. Well, they made their way down to the Red Sea. Once they became alarmed. There like, we're going to die here because Pharaoh had regained his courage, and you want to go back and capture them. He was in hot pursuit. On one side, had the Red Sea, and on the other side was Pharaoh bearing down on them. And mountain walls hemmed them in. it looked as though they were goners. Again, God heard their cry. And Moses extended his rod and the Red Sea opened. A strong wind blew and they walked across on dry ground. Then they went to up the wilderness there. Safe now from the Army of the Egypt that was destroyed. They were hungry and a cried out and God heard them. God sent manna. He dropped groceries from heaven. And then they ate their fill. They got thirsty and they complained against God. God caused water flow from the rock. Again, again and again God provided for them. But it was if if they'd never could get over their bellyaching. There murmuring. They’re complaining. Finally they came to the Jordan River, God had proven himself true to every promise, and he said “this land that you see that flows with milk and honey, where there are vineyards that you did not plant, where their houses to live in that you did not build, with their walled cities that you can inhabit, all of this I'm giving to you. The children of Israel, what did they do, the they doubted. They said that land is too mighty. There are chariots there. There are walled cities. We are as but grasshoppers in our own eyes. We can't do it. And they doubted and it gave them our atherosclerosis. I mean it hardened their arteries. It gave them heart disease.
Listen to what the Bible says in verse 12 of our chapter, Hebrews 3. Take care brothers, lest there be in any of you and an evil, unbelieving heart. Leading you to fall away from the living God. What had happened? They had they had heart disease. Their heart had become evil, and it is rooted in, what the Bible says, unbelief. You know what God wants for us above everything? He wants us to believe him when he makes promises. He wants us to believe that they will come true. When he says what the Bible says, God so loved the world; he wants us to believe it. That he gave his only begotten son; he wants us to believe that. That whosoever would believe in him would not perish, but have everlasting life; he wants us to trust that promise. That’s what he seeks above all. That we would trust and believe in him. But they doubted. It caused a hard heart.
Let me give you one other cause of a hard hart. I've mentioned deafness and doubt but deceit can cause you to have a hard heart. Look in verse 13, but exhort one another every day, as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. You see sin is at work in us. The devil was at work to deceive us. To think that God is not good. That he is not faithful to his promises. And to pull us away from the living God. The deceitfulness of sin.
I heard a story years ago, about what was called the perfect crime. It’s a story set in New York, back in the days when they were building the skyscrapers. And there were two men that have become enemies of one another on the building site. But they worked, side-by-side, on the girders as they were building this mighty skyscraper. One of the men had the job of affixing the rivets to the girders so that they would be in place. The other man would pitch the rivets to the first man. He would pitch them. The man would catch it and he would attach the rivet and on they would go throughout the day, attaching those great steel girders. The one man thought of away to murder his coworker. And here was his plan. As he threw the rivet to him, with each successive throw, he withdraw just a little bit further out from the building. And so the man that was catching the rivet and attaching them, you know he caught the rivet, with the next throw he had to reach out just a little bit further, the next throw, a little further, and it was so subtle, it was so incremental, it was so sinister, he didn’t recognize he was reaching out further and further. Until finally that last throw came and he lost his balance as he reached out to get it. He plunged to his death. Now they called it the perfect crime because there was no trace of any misdeed. He subtlety, very incrementally murdered his coworker.
Now, why do I tell that story? That’s the way sin operates in our lives. The devil, he’s not going up and get you to like jump over to some massive evil like Hitler, but he's going to incrementally, very subtly, throw you a temptation that just close enough that you might bite. Once you've indulged in that, he may throw at temptation that's a little further out from God's will, in a little further out, until finally you take a great fall because sin is deceitful. I wonder today if I'm talking to some people whose hearts are becoming hard because you've been deceived by sin. You find yourself doing things that you never would've dreamed of doing, because incrementally, you gone there. Today if you hear his voice, awaken to the danger that is in front you. These are the causes of a heard heart. Now quickly, what does it matter? Are there any consequences for having a hard heart? Well you know physically, if you have hardening of the arteries, and your heart gets where there is not enough blood flowing to it. It’s deadly. In fact, did you know every 33 seconds, someone in America dies of heart disease? In a year more than a million people die. It is the leading cause of death for both men and women. Physically, it's dangerous. There are consequences. What about spiritually? If your heart gets cold and hard toward God, does it matter? Well I am going to tell you today it does matter. I’m going to give you two reasons it matters. First of all, it matters because what you don't get when your heart is hard. Now, remember I told you that God was taking the children of Israel to the Promised Land. They were going to go to that land of milk and honey. Those walled cities. They were going to inhabit them. Every good thing was going to be provided them. But because they did not believe, because their hearts were cold and hard, they did not get what God would have otherwise given them. Do you see how this is applicable to you and me? God of the Bible says Jesus came that we might have life and that we might have it more abundantly. The Promised Land is but a picture of the life abundant that we are to have in Jesus. But you don't get it if you have a hard heart toward God and if you ignore his voice.
I’m going to put on the screen a picture of fellow, you may recognize. Him his name John Candy. Here’s a famous actor, some years ago. He starred in the movie, Cool Running about the Jamaican bobsled team; Splash He was with the Blues Brothers and so a little bit dated. So you may know John Candy. He was actually well known for being a comedic character. He was a big man, physically very big. In his family that was a history of heart disease. His father, now get this, his father died when he was only 35 years old. Can you imagine? Almost 20 years my younger, dying of a heart attack. So John grew up in a family that should've known well the dangers of heart disease. But John, I guess it goes with that comedic, jovial feel. He loved to eat. He gave it a good Louisiana. He loved to eat and he would put on a big spread for everybody. He would smoke a pack of cigarettes a day. He just lived the life. Those in violation of every rule of good health and we was 43 years old, he too died. He didn't get the love out all of these years. He lost it. He didn't get what he could've otherwise had. He was making $4 million per picture. That was back in the mid-90. All that wealth. All the future that was before him, but he squandered it, because of his hard hardening heart. In the physical realm.
The same thing can be true for us spiritually. God wants us to enter into a life of joy and freedom and purpose. We can’t have it, if we can have a hard heart. So the consequences are, what you don't get what the consequence is also are, what you do get. When you have a hard heart, what they get? Look again at your Bible and Ill show you. In verse 17 it says, “and with whom was he provoked for 40 years, was it not with those who sinned? Whose bodies fell in the wilderness. What did they get? They got 40 years; listen to me, 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. Until every one of their bodies fell dead in the desert. All those that were of age that could've gone to the Promised Land, save Joshua and Caleb. Those faithful men who said “let's go.” all the rest died. What they didn't get was the Promised Land. What they did get was death. Spiritually, don't miss what God would give you and don't get what the world would give you. Right? I said before, I said again, God wants for us what we would want for ourselves, if we had sense enough to want it. He wants a life of goodness for you in abundance and joy and purpose. But if you have a hard heart, you never going to get it. Well let me conclude. Is there a cure? You know physically, if you have a heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, which I have several those things, to some small degree, is there anything I can do? There is something that I can do. I can exercise. And I need to do more than I do, but I could exercise. I could eat better. And I'm trying to do a little better on my eating. You let the stress out of your life. You can rest better. We need these disciplines in our lives physically. But what about spiritually? Is there something that you can do? Is there a cure for the hard heart? There is. Let me give you two cures. Number one, fellowship with one another. Notice what he says in verse 13, “but exhort one another, every day, as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin, do you see that? When we exhort one another, when we encourage one another, it helps our hearts to be soft. That’s why it is so good for you to come to church. Ill tells you something curious. You know they have done a study and that regular church attendance actually prolongs physical life. It’s good for you to come to church. Even if that were the spiritual element, which is supreme, but even physically good for you to come. And spiritually, how good it is to be in the company of other believers. When I see you here, what does it do, it warms my heart. It softens my heart. It encourages my heart. And I know that you have that sensation as you gather with one another. And I hope you're part of one of our small groups. We call them ABF’s, Adult Bible Fellowship. Or if you’re a teenager you’re in our student ministry with the table groups. We have to Thrive classes where you can come on Wednesday nights and exhort one another as the Bible says. Be one of our D groups. But get into the company of others. That will keep your heart soft. Don’t get out there by yourself and be hardhearted. There’s one special night I’m going to mention, its November 2. I want all of you to please put this on your calendar, all right. On November 2, that morning were going to have Go Global Sunday. Dr. Dave Early is going to be here to speak to us and that night we going to gather back, we we don't normally come on Sunday nights, this is getting be an exception. We are going to come together and our purpose is to cry out to God, to exhort one another, God bring revival to my heart. I tell you something; my heart needs to be softer. I bet some of you if you were to be honest would say, me to preacher. I need my heart to be softened. Our church needs revival. Our nation needs revival. Our world is desperate for the peace and life that Jesus brings.
We are going to get on our knees, November 2 and I want to be here. We are calling the night, The Power of One. The since of us being together. Exhorting one another. One Church, one heart, and one voice, an all campus prayer gathering on November 2 at 6 PM. alright now, the other thing that you can do to have a soft heart, and it's the chief thing, while it is important fellowship with one another, you to have faith in one. I mean you need to have your faith in the Lord Jesus, who gave his life on the cross. Who shed his blood? That we might live. Verse 14 of this chapter says. “ For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.” he's talking about faith. He’s talking about belief. And he says we're to hold our confidence firm until the end. Does that mean that, by having firm confidence to the end, we save ourselves? No. We don’t save ourselves. We are saved by him. But our confidence to the end reveals the genuineness of our faith. And so were to hold that confidence firm. That faith that fate firm to the end. When I was a boy my preacher, used to say, “faith that fizzles before the finish, was faulty from the first.” you heard that? Faith that fizzles before the finish was faulty from the first. And so man look, don’t let your faith fizzle. Don’t get a cold heart man. Stay in fellowship with one another and put your faith in the Lord Jesus.
Now conclude. In 2011, Steven Spielberg produced a wonderful movie. Some of you went and saw it. I'm sure it's called Warhorse. If you haven't seen it, I'd recommended even for family viewing. It one of those few Hollywood movies that you wouldn’t mind your children seeing. It’s a story of a young boy and his horse. The horses’ name is Joey. Joey is a thoroughbred. And by a set of circumstances, Joey's poor family comes into possession of this prize horse. The boy's name is Albert, is it not? Albert. Thank you. He loves Joey the horse. And so he just raises up that thoroughbred. They’re the best of friends. Well, World War I comes along and Great Britain is in need of horses to pull the heavy artillery and for the chores of battle and are buying up all the horses. One day Albert was out and the Army men came and Albert's father needed money for their farm. He sold the horse while the boy was away the boy came back he was “Where is my horse” and they were taking them away to the Army. Well, with the passage of time the boy himself went into the Army. And he and the horse were scattered across was thousands of miles, far apart from one another. He didn’t know where his horse was. But he never forgot him. As the battles of drug on and the war drug on, one day the boy was in a trench, and some poison gas was shelled his trench and it blinded the boy, temporarily. So he went to an infirmary to be nursed back to health. And he didn’t know it but the horse had been captured by the Germans and had been put into very harsh labor. The horse, his health to become broken, his spirit had become broken, and in one scene that is very memorable, the horse tries the bolt across no man's land. And the horse becomes entangled in the barbed wire. You remember that horrific scene? The freed the horse but the horse is so wounded that they can't nurse him back to health it seems. And so there are going to just shoot the horse, to put him out of his misery, remember this? And the boys in the hospital, and it happens that now the horses is very close at hand. The boy hears some people talking about this, this ghost horse, this is miracle horse that had survived no man's land, which no one survived, if you heard them talk about the horse, he thought, perhaps that's Joey. Perhaps that's my horse. And so he staggers up out of his sickbed. In he makes his way into the alley and they're about to shoot the horse. And the boy Joey, he had this whistle the always use with the horse, from the horse in the earliest days. [Whistles]. The old horse perked his head up. Looked about, showed some life and vigor that he never shown before. And the blind boy begins to inch his way through the crowd of soldiers. They are all just silent, because they are about to hear the gunshot, right. The horse neighs and the boy whistles again. The old horse begins to snort and gather strength up again and the soldier’s part like the Red Sea, and the boy in the horse are united. The horse was saved because he knew his master's voice. He heard it. He responded to it. His salvation.
What am I saying to you? Listen to the bookends of this passage, how does the passage start? How does it end? Verbatim, today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as your forefathers did the rebellion in the wilderness, instead be saved. Would you bow your heads please? I wonder who here today would say, preacher my hearts been hard. I've been getting further and further away from the warmth of God. I've gone astray and preacher, I need, I name my heart softened. The Bible says that God wants to take out of us a heart of stone and put in us, heart of flesh. Like the heart of a new baby. He wants us to be born again and saved. Forgiven. Maid new. Warm. Responsive. Would you just cry out to Him? Lord! Lord please; take out my hard stone heart. And God give me your heart, a new heart. New life. And for those of you who know Christ as Savior, and if you been away from him, would you just say Lord I repent. I come back to you. Lord from the deceitfulness of sin. I want to get away from those temptations and Lord I come to you, tower of strength and I run into you Lord. Revive me. Cleanse me. Help me to walk closely with you. All of these things Lord, we pray, in Jesus name, Amen.