14 For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end;
15 While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation.
16 For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses.
17 But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness?
18 And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not?
19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.
There is a growing surge of those who think that once they kneel at an altar, confess their sins, and recognize Jesus as Lord, they cannot lose their salvation. Once-save, always-saved is the usual way we say that. They believe whatever they do after that moment at the altar does not matter. Grace will cover any sin. All I have to do is ask forgiveness again. Jesus will forgive us over and over. After all, He told the disciples they must forgive unendingly if someone sins against them! Would not God do the same for us? Of course, He would.
The passage here indicates the opposite though. This passage tells us that if we do not believe, if we do not hold onto the confidence we have in Christ, we will not enter into His rest. He will not taste the fruit of the promised land. How many did that entail? If we look at the sheer numbers, we find that the population of Israel was fairly constant in the wilderness. There were only 1,820 less men of war who entered Canaan then who left Egypt. That is astounding after a 40-year period. But we also know that, because of unbelief, all the men of 20 years old and upward when they left Egypt, died in the wilderness except Joshua and Caleb (Moses died just before crossing Jordan). Why did they die? Because of unbelief. They had murmured against God enough. Several times they wanted to return to Egypt because of the hardship of the desert. Several times Moses interceded for the people and Gd spared them. But when the spies came back from the promised land and brough a bad report, that was the last straw for God. He had told them they would enter the land, and that the land was theirs. Joshua and Caleb said they could take the land. But the other ten put fear in their hearts, and they did not believe the two, or God. This unbelief caused God to say all those 20 years old and upward would die in the wilderness. This was right at the beginning of those 40 years. If they had only listened to God they would have avoided those 40 years in the wilderness and the promise would be theirs. How sad!
Today we loom back and see what happened to these Israelites, and we forget the lesson that is there. Many go about ignoring God’s commands and living life the way they want to live it. They don’t listen to the words of the preacher, but harden their hearts (see yesterdays lesson) and go about doing their own thing. I would venture to say the most rampant sin in the church is unforgiveness. Did not Jesus say that if we do not forgive our fellow man, God will not forgive us? How often do I ignore that, holding grudges and saying awful things about those who wrong us? Then there are the words of Paul that we should not grumble or complain. I hear these two things constantly from other Christians. Paul tells us we should not allow corrupt communication proceed from our mouth, but our words should always minister grace to the person we are talking to. How often do my words hurt others, even if spoken only to my wife?
We are all in the process of working out our salvation, and we should do so with fear and trembling. Heaven is not a given, it is a gift. A gift of God’s grace that we should not take lightly. We are serving a holy God, and he asks us to be Holy like Him. We deem that impossible, so we figure some sin won’t hurt us. I know I do. Maybe you do not. I am far from perfect, and I do things that I should not do. Paul even had that problem. At one point he said he does the things he should not do, and does not do the things he should. I can sure identify with that! But he follows it up with thanks to Jesus for the gift He has given us in salvation. Paul’s heart was always in the right place and he walked a walk similar to David’s, a walk of repentance. He made sure he was always right with God by asking forgiveness every time he took a wrong turn. I need to stop taking God’s grace for granted. We all must. Our missions is to show others the light of Christ. When I sin, my light dims a little and my witness is affected. When I walk in integrity, I also walk with a confidence like I first had when I got saved. This is the confidence God wants us to have. The Ephesian church was scolded because the left their first love, the love of God. We put aside God’s love when we take Him for granted. We think He owes us forgiveness. He does not owe us anything. He already gave His all when he gave His son. Now it is up to me to walk out the grace and mercy He has placed inside of me when I asked Him to be my Savior and Lord. I must treat others the way He treats me. That is what we do when we truly believe! That is how we enter his rest.