“Take care, brothers, 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,’
that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”
There is weight to these verses. Highlighting our responsibility as followers of Christ and as fellow believers in the family of God.
Our first responsibility is to guard our own heart. To guard it from the evil that is unbelief. Because that is where sin starts, is it not? We begin to question truth and its relevance to our current situation. We question God and His activity in our lives. Questions can be good from a standpoint of us seeking God, seeking truth, wrestling with difficult things and drawing near to Him in the process. But when those questions instead put up barriers, when we go to places outside of Scripture or godly counsel in our search of answers, that is when we become vulnerable.
In Ephesians 6:16, the apostle Paul writes of faith as our shield. The shield with which we can extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one. Let us not miss the great importance of keeping that shield in place. Because our enemy is powerful and extremely deceptive. So we must be on guard, always holding up our shield of faith and seeking to strengthen it all the more as we study the Word of God and intentionally press in to know Him more. Because our faith is our shield, and His Word is the sword with which we resist the devil and cause him to flee. He flees from us when we stand firm in the strength of the Lord. When we hold fast to our faith and speak truth with confidence in who our God is.
So we take care. We watch ourselves. We strengthen our faith and hold fast to His Word. We are intentional in this, because our enemy is powerful and able to deceive us. Let us not think ourselves invulnerable to sin; the devil will take advantage of our pride and we will falter.
The other responsibility in these verses is to our fellow believers. These beloved of God, these for whom Christ died. Even if we are not immediate family by the world’s terms, we are bound by blood – the blood shed on the cross for us, the blood that covers our sin and washes us white as snow. Oh, may our love for each other abound. May it be pure. And may it spur us to encourage one another, that none of us will become hardened by the deceitfulness of sin, that none will entertain unbelief and fall away from the Lord.
This matters. The state of one another’s heart must matter to us. Because when we love each other as Christ loves us, we will not neglect the well-being of one another. And so the writer of Hebrews calls believers to exhort each other every day. Meaning this is a relationship. This is continual. This is mutual responsibility to walk alongside and build each other up in the faith.
The Greek word translated here as “exhort” means to invite, to beseech, to beg, to admonish, to comfort, to console, to encourage. So many applications as we are to walk together through life faithfully. Our calling is not to just look for others to fall and then point it out. No, we’re supposed to already be beside them on the way, bringing comfort in hardship and pain, offering encouragement through difficult roads. So we are able to see the deception from the first and can encourage them in faith. So we can implore them to continue steadfastly, to keep hoping in the Lord, to resist the devil and not allow him an inch. So we have the relationship in place and the right to speak truth in love to them, firmly if hardness of heart makes it necessary (but still out of love – not frustration or pride), desiring to restore them to fellowship with Christ and other believers.
Our love for each other is what sets us apart from the world. This is how they will know we are Christ’s. And this is how they will come to believe in Him. Through our love for one another. Love that watches out for one another with humility and grace. Love that builds relationships. Love that comforts and encourages. Love that recognizes dangers and warns against them. Love that is patient and kind toward one another. Love that rejoices and weeps with each other. Love that sacrifices and pours out compassion. Love that serves and gives generously and honors. Love that blesses persecutors and forgives countless times, keeping no record of wrongs. Always believing, hoping, and persevering. Love that holds fast to faith in our God, because that faith is not only our shield – it is our victory (1 John 5:4-5).
“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”