“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.” (Hebrews 3:13)
Some years ago, I worked with a 20 year-old man. I’ll call him Tom in this article. Like many of us, Tom was raised by devoted Christian parents. He put his faith in Christ at an early age and was a regular attendee at church, even sang in the choir.
Tom struggled at college, however, and started to mix with the wrong crowd. A college friend introduced him to a man who showed him how much money could be made by selling drugs. Swayed by the promise of easy money, expensive designer labels and a distorted sense of loyalty to his new ‘friends’, Tom started to embrace a very different lifestyle. He increasingly cut his family out of his life and moved in with his new drug associates.
In the summer of 2012, Tom found himself in the middle of one particular drug deal which went sour. In a moment of madness, he and his friends beat a man to death. Today, Tom remains in prison, six years into a life sentence. How did it come to this?
Tom is an example (admittedly an extreme one) of how one of God’s redeemed children can be deceived by the “deceitfulness of sin”. Hebrews 3:7-19 takes us back to the nation of Israel. God loves Israel; he saved Israel from slavery in Egypt and he led them through the desert to a land where he wanted them to settle as a nation. Tragically, the first generation of Israelites (with the exception of Caleb and Joshua) never got to Canaan. They got scared; they didn’t trust God and were not prepared to go into battle (see Numbers 14). God was angry and he said in his wrath, “they shall not enter my rest.”
Today, everybody who knows Jesus as their Saviour has been given eternal life (John 3:16). We became children of God. This can never be taken away from us, no matter what we do (John 10:28). Praise God for that! However, it is possible that we can forfeit the intimacy of living close to God, appreciating his glory, hearing his voice and enjoying the privileges of divine service amongst his people today. It is also possible to lose eternal reward which God promises to the faithful.
To be intimate with God requires a continuing life of holiness and dedication to him, just as intimacy with our earthly fathers, mothers or spouses requires a continual love and faithfulness towards each other.
The Bible warns us that friendship with the world makes us enemies of God (James 4:4). Demas, a former companion of Paul the apostle, became a victim of this. Paul recalls with sorrow in his letter to Timothy, “Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me” (2 Timothy 4:10).
Sin can often feel very appealing. The world is full of pleasures and temptations which appeal to our human nature. It is easy to be led astray by the delusion of better things outside the kingdom of God.
The more we make the right choices, the more we experience God’s presence in our life. The more we make the wrong choices, however, the more “hardened” our hearts can become. We become conditioned to tolerate, or even enjoy, things that God passionately hates. This is the “deceitfulness of sin”.
It is God’s desire for his children that we live lives that are rich, full of Christ, intimate with God, fruitful in service, pleasing in worship. By his grace and hiHoly Spirit we know this is attainable; let’s encourage one another to pursue these things.
Andy Seddon, The Church of God in Swindon