Today is the day. No, I’ll do it tomorrow. You better get it while you can! Don’t hesitate! Don’t wait! Don’t procrastinate! This is a deal you can’t pass up. Get it while you can. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Hurry, for the next twelve hours we’re letting ’em go at a price you can’t refuse. Call now for your special reduced price. We’ve only got three of these priceless gems left. Don’t let this opportunity pass you by! Call now! Stop what you are doing and head on over right away! Send in your registration today! Today! Today! Today!
You’ve seen them before coming across your television screen. You’ve seen their ads in the newspapers. You may have met them at the car lot. As a matter of fact, you may run into them just about anywhere. They are the tightly wound, fast-talking, urgent sounding, slicked-up, never laid back town criers hocking their wares as fast as they can, anywhere they can, and to whomever they can as the clock ticks on, as time winds down, as time runs out. They are seeking to convince you and me that what we need, we need now. We can’t let a day go by. We can’t live without it for another minute. We must act while the opportunity presents itself or we will forever miss out on the chance of a lifetime. An opportunity that could forever change our life and bring us everything we’ve ever longed for in life. Who knows what devastation and despair will visit our house if we fail to act today?
With so much on the line we rush out and get it, whatever “it” happens to be at the time, whatever “it” is fashionable that day, and we get it while we can so that we can experience whatever has been promised. We don’t want to delay. We don’t want to hesitate. We don’t want to miss out on the best things in life so we go get it – however we must, whatever we have to pay, whatever we must sacrifice. Lay away, pay today, the installment plan, hand me your credit card man! We simply must have it.
There is an urgency that is present in our society today. There is electricity in the air. There is expectation waiting around every bend. Every ten minutes on the television, programs are interrupted in order to inform us about “new” and “improved” items that will revolutionize our lives. Everyday in the newspapers we read ads extolling the excitement that these items will bring to our lives. Everyday on the radio we hear things lauded and applauded for the potential that they could unlock in our lives. We must act now! I’ve got an idea! Let’s let church out early so that we can rush out and get it now, before the Baptists get out and it’s all gone!
Speaking of church, every Sunday preachers around the world, Sunday school teachers in millions of classrooms, evangelists traveling the globe, and passionate Christians from every walk of life seek to invite their friends, neighbors, and co-workers to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Those who hear the plea, those whose ears are filled with the cries of God’s people, they sit back and say, “Not today. Not until I get my life together. Not now. The time is not right. I don’t feel like it is the thing to do. I want to do a few other things first. I’ll get around to it. Not today, but maybe tomorrow.”
“Not today, but maybe tomorrow.” Those are absolutely the saddest words spoken by any individual today. While God continues to call us into His glorious grace and mercy, while He offers us salvation for our sin sick souls, while He desires to deliver us from our slavery, while He longs to bless us, lead us, and use us to bring glory and honor to His holy name – so, so many of us are turning a deaf ear to God and putting off until tomorrow what God is desiring for us today.
This morning we are continuing our study of the Book of Hebrews. “Today” is the key word for our study this morning and my prayer for you is that if you hear the voice of God calling you this morning that you will respond to His great voice and offer your life to the King. Let’s take a look at Hebrews 3:7-19.
7So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert, 9 where your fathers tested and tried me and for forty years saw what I did. 10 That is why I was angry with that generation, and I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.’ 11 So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’ ” 12 See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. 14 We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. 15As has just been said: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.” 16 Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? 17 And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert? 18 And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? 19 So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief. (Hebrews 3:7-19 NIV)
Today is the day that we are called upon to say, “Yes Lord!” There is no room for tomorrow. Tomorrow may never come and it is too great of a gamble for you and for me to assume that we will get right with God tomorrow. We need to get right with God when we hear His voice of mercy and grace, His voice of conviction call.
If you hear urgency in my voice then, my friend, you are hearing right. I want you to know that my urgency is not rooted in one man trying to get you to do something that I want you to do. The urgency you sense in my voice is because God has raised my level of awareness. He has shown me how important it is for us to act upon His call today. Let me give you an example of what I am talking about. Take a look at Hebrews 3:7-11.
7So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert, 9 where your fathers tested and tried me and for forty years saw what I did. 10 That is why I was angry with that generation, and I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.’ 11 So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’
The opening phrase of our study for today should get our undivided attention. The writer of Hebrews says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts…” The phrase that is used by the author of Hebrews originated long before he was ever born. It is a direct quotation from Psalm 95 and it shows us so clearly that God’s Word is divinely inspired. You may say, “How do we know that God’s Word is divinely inspired just by reading a quote from Psalm 95?” That is a great question. If you will notice, David is the human author of Psalm 95, but we read in Hebrews 3:7, “So, as the Holy Spirit says:” We are told in God’s Word that Scripture did not come about by some grand plan of man, but through God’s Sovereign plan. In 2 Peter we read,
20Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. 21For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:20-21 NIV)
God’s Word is a gift from God to you and me. It is not man that is calling us to act on God’s voice, but God Himself who is calling us to act today. Both Psalm 95 and Hebrews 3:7 call us to respond to God’s voice now. Both also point to the same incident in which people neglected God’s voice and how their neglect caused their hearts to harden. Take a look at Psalm 95:7-11.
Today, if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the desert, 9 where your fathers tested and tried me, though they had seen what I did. 10 For forty years I was angry with that generation; I said, “They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they have not known my ways.” 11 So I declared on oath in my anger, “They shall never enter my rest.” (Psalm 95:7-11 NIV)
The incident that David writes about, and that which we read about in Hebrews 3, is the hardening of the hearts of those who had so clearly seen God’s marvelous, mighty power displayed before them night and day. They had seen God act on their behalf over and over again and in ways that would cause anyone to stop and marvel. Yet, they continued to test God. They didn’t fall down before Him in worship, they continued to test Him over and over again. John MacArthur writes,
Israel had been in Egypt for more than 400 years, the last 200 years or so as slaves. Afraid that the Hebrews would become a threat, the Egyptians tried to weaken them and deplete their numbers by hard, oppressive labor in building cities and perhaps even pyramids. They were overworked, underfed, and regularly beaten. As both punishment and as an inducement to let His people leave this land, God afflicted the Egyptians with a series of ten plagues, the last and worst of which caused the death of all their firstborn. At this, Pharaoh pleaded with the Israelites to leave, which they hurriedly did under Moses leadership. By the time they reached the Red Sea, Pharaoh had changed his mind and had led his troops to bring them back. God performed another miracle, allowing His people to travel through the parted waters, which afterward engulfed and drowned the pursuing army of Egypt. (John MacArthur, Hebrews, pg. 89)
If this were not enough, God continued to display His mighty power before His people over and over again. He gave them a pillar of fire to lead them by night and a cloud to lead them through the wilderness by day. He provided manna and quail everyday for them to eat. Water flowed out of a rock to give them something to drink. With God continually showing Himself faithful what did the people do? They grumbled. They made idols out of things that didn’t matter, things that had no power. They fussed because they had to eat manna everyday. They grumbled because of the leader God gave them. Finally, God had enough. The Bible describes God as being long-suffering and He certainly was towards the Israelites. For forty years God forgave their unbelief, He continued to provide for them, and He showered them with grace, but they kept grumbling. The day came when “Today” ended and it became too late. Tomorrow came and the voice of God spoke, not an invitation, but a judgment against them. Look at Numbers 14 and follow along with me.
1That night all the people of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. 2All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert! 3Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” 4And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.” 20The LORD replied, “I have forgiven them, as you asked. 21Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the LORD fills the whole earth, 22not one of the men who saw my glory and the miraculous signs I performed in Egypt and in the desert but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times-23not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it. 35I, the LORD, have spoken, and I will surely do these things to this whole wicked community, which has banded together against me. They will meet their end in this desert; here they will die.” (Numbers 14:1-4; 20-23; 35 NIV)
Over and over again in Scripture we are told to act on God’s call “Today.” When does today end? How long is “today?” Is it only twenty-four hours? Could a day be forty years as it was for the Israelites? Is a day a thousand years and a thousand years a day? How long is a day? When does God’s invitation end and His judgment begin? Those are questions that if we had the answer to them we could all rest more easily, but the fact of the matter is that we don’t know when the day ends, we don’t know when God will cease striving with us. Because of that fact we must act now when we hear the voice of God calling us to salvation.
There is a fable told about Satan and his angels. Satan asked them, “How can we destroy the souls of men?” One said, “I will tell them there is no God.” Satan answered, “That will never do because creation testifies to a Creator and man innately knows there is a God.” A second said, “I will tell them there is no heaven.” Satan replied, “No, that won’t work either. Since Jesus was raised from the dead, men believe in heaven.” A third said, “I will tell them there is no hell.” Satan responded, “Your plan will not work because Jesus made it plain there is a hell.” A fourth said, “I will tell them that there is no hurry to make their life right with God.” Satan cried out, “That will do it–go.” (Source Unknown)
Why do today what we can get around to taking care of tomorrow? Why, because we do not know when our life on this earth will come to an end. Dwight Moody can testify. Early in his ministry, the great evangelist Dwight L. Moody would often end his message with, “Go home and think about what I’ve said.” One night in Chicago he told the people to do this and to come back the next night ready to make a decision. That night the great Chicago fire broke out, and some who had been in the audience died. That was the last time he told anyone to think over the claims of Jesus and make a decision later on. No one knows if he or she will have a tomorrow in which to decide. When the Bible says, “Today,” it means the moment. Not twenty-four hours, not forty-years – not even tomorrow. We must act today when we hear God call.
Take a look at verses 12-13 and listen closely to the urgency, to the seriousness that is being communicated to you and me.
12 See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.
In these two little verses we find direction that is of absolute importance to you and me. We must pay heed to God’s voice calling us away from what we think we want and into His purposes for our lives.
First of all, we are told to see to it that none of us has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from God. We must make every effort to make sure that we are in touch with what we are doing. There is no room for apathy, lackadaisical attitudes, or a casual approach to faith in Jesus. There are many folks who believe in their head that Jesus is the Son of God, but they have never bowed their knees before Him as Lord and King. We must surrender our hearts, heads, and every aspect of our lives to the Lord or we will possess an unbelieving heart.
Many people come close to accepting Jesus, they attend church, they may pray, they can sing the songs of faith, but they have never surrendered their hearts. When they consider the cost of becoming a disciple of Jesus they turn away. We are told to see to it that none of us has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away. Don’t turn away, run into the arms of the Father who is calling your name.
When we consider the wondrous grace and mercy that God has demonstrated throughout history we must ask, “Why would anyone turn away from God?” That is a great question and there are many answers. Folks turn away from God because they want to live their own life, they want to call the shots. Folks turn away because their understanding of God is something other than who He really is. Folks turn away from God because they feel like they’ve got to clean up their lives before they could be acceptable to God. Folks turn away from God because they believe that He is out to get them, whenever they mess up they feel guilty and they are convinced that God is waiting to bop them on the head. Oh my friend, God is just the opposite of your misconceived ideas. He is out to rescue us, to save us from ourselves, and to deliver us into His glorious purposes for our lives.
Secondly, we are to encourage one another daily so that none of us may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. This verse is rich with application for you and me. We are told to encourage one another. The Greek word for “encourage” is a form of the word used by Jesus for the Holy Spirit in John 14:16. The word means, “to come alongside to give help.” We are called to come alongside of one another so that we do not become hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. He is saying, “Pull up alongside of folks and help them to avoid becoming hardened and to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior.”
How are we hardened? We are hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. Sin is sneaky, tricky, and deceptive. It disguises itself and tries to convince us that it is something other than what it really is. Sin will draw you and me in and then it will devour us. Sin snares us with its shimmering, shining, seductive attraction and then it saps us of our very lives. Paul wrote in Romans, 11For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. (Romans 7:11 NIV) We are to encourage each other every day so that none of is lead to our destruction by sin’s deceitfulness.
We need our brothers and sisters to walk with us, steer us away from the snares of the Enemy or we will find our selves strolling down Sin Avenue until we are crawling and clawing to find release from the shackles of sin.
Diane was a beautiful young mother of three. She had always wanted a family, but now that she had what she wanted she felt trapped. It seemed like all she ever did was take care of kids. She used to feel beautiful. She once thought of herself as a competent person who was able to do many things. Now, she wondered if she was even attractive to her husband who rarely showed her any affection. She didn’t have time to do anything since she was always tending to the needs of the kids.
One day Diane got a call from a man in her Sunday school class who was wondering if she would be willing to work on a committee with him. Diane thought it would be a good opportunity to get out of the house so she said, “Yes.” When she showed up for the first meeting there were about six or seven other people present.
As time went on, one of Diane’s friends noticed that one of the men on the committee seemed to be showing Diane a little too much attention. She also noticed how Diane seemed to like it, but she didn’t say anything. As the months rolled by, she continued to sense that something wasn’t right with the relationship so one day she called Diane and asked her to lunch. The friend was so nervous about going to lunch with Diane, but she sensed the Lord leading her to visit with Diane.
When the two women went to lunch the anxiety was so thick you could cut it with a knife. The woman tried to find an opportunity to talk about her concern, but it just didn’t seem to fit. Finally, as lunch was drawing to a close she blurted out, “Diane, I am concerned about you.” She spilled her heart and it caught Diane off guard. Diane acted offended, but she listened and assured her friend that she was making too much out of nothing. The friend could see that Diane wasn’t responding so she dropped it and lunch ended.
After Diane got home she thought more and more about what her friend had to say. God began to convict her heart and show her that she was seeking attention and approval from the man on her committee. Diane wept before the presence of God and called her friend. Diane told her what God had shown her and thanked her for being willing to risk their friendship so that she could be used by God. The two women experienced a depth in their relationship that they had never known.
Oh how we need one another. We need to be the eyes of our friends to recognize hidden snares the Enemy has set before them. We need our brothers and sisters in Christ to be our eyes and ears so that we will not fall prey to sin’s deceptiveness.
When we sense that God is calling us to step out in faith, to receive the forgiveness and salvation that has been made available to us only through Jesus then we need to respond immediately. Don’t wait another day.
I will close with a poem that so powerfully illustrates for you and me the lesson of our Scripture for today. As you listen to the poem also listen for the voice of Almighty God calling you this very day.
The Spirit came in childhood and pleaded, “Let me in,”
But oh! the door was bolted by thoughtlessness and sin;
“I am too young,” the child replied, “I will not yield today;
There’s time enough tomorrow.” The Spirit went away.
Again He came and pleaded in youth’s bright happy hour;
He came but heard no answer, for lured by Satan’s power
The youth lay dreaming then and saying, “Not today,
Not till I’ve tried earth’s pleasures.” The Spirit went away.
Again He called in mercy in manhood’s vigorous prime,
But still He found no welcome, the merchant had no time;
No time for true repentance, no time to think or pray,
And so, repulsed and saddened, the Spirit went away.
Once more He called and waited, the man was old and ill,
And scarcely heard the whisper, his heart was cold and still;
“Go leave me; when I need thee, I’ll call for thee,” he cried;
Then sinking on his pillow, without a hope, he died!
Our Daily Bread, February 22
Today, if you hear the Lord calling you won’t accept Jesus Christ into your heart as Lord and Savior. Don’t wait another day my friend.