Service Video Message Video Message Audio The service video is unavailable at this time. The sermon video is unavailable at this time. The sermon audio is unavailable at this time. Scripture Verses Hebrews 3:1-13, Isaiah 40, Numbers 13:31-33 Downloads & Resources Lessons From the Desert Dr. Jon Morrissette - 2/2/2003 Yesterday. Yesterday was a day of terrible news and great sadness. We replayed the destruction and tragedy over and over again, sifting through the wreckage, looking for understanding, searching for a glimmer of hope, and seeking comfort. We silently grieved as the President confirmed our worst fears, "The Columbia is lost. There are no survivors." The news coverage yesterday was long on repetition but short on reflection. Only once throughout the entire day were we invited to gaze beyond the skies, and beyond the destruction, and beyond the tragedy to catch a glimpse of God. The President appropriately quoted Isaiah the prophet from Isaiah 40:26 (NIV)."Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing." Last night I located Isaiah 40 the chapter from which President Bush quoted. Isaiah 40 has a lot to say about yesterday. In Isaiah 40:5-8 (NIV)Isaiah says, "All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the LORD blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever." The very nature of our existence is that we may slowly wither away like the grass or we can be violently plucked from this earth like a flower, without a moment's notice! I thought it was eerie that earlier last week, the astronauts on the space shuttle Columbia observed a moment of silence for the astronauts of the ill-fated space shuttle Challenger that exploded upon take off seventeen years ago. Yesterday was a forceful and stunning reminder of our mortality. It was a reminder that we don't live forever, that life is uncertain, that there are no guarantees, that we are like the grass and the flowers of the field, and that we have only a short time to live out our lives before a great and powerful, everlasting God. I wonder this morning if we might somehow use the occasion of yesterday to talk about our responsibilities toward today. This week I have been studying Hebrews 3. In this passage the writer of Hebrews places great emphasis on the word today. In light of our mortality he is concerned that we make the most of each day. That we live each day from the perspective of eternity. That we not put Jesus Christ off or take our relationship with Christ for granted. That we not procrastinate in spiritual matters or diminish the importance of Christian obedience or lose the perspective of our heavenly calling. He wants us daily, responsibly, faithfully, clinging to our hope in Christ. He wants us to live each day as if it were our last day. To help us accomplish this, the writer teaches a number of things. Fix your thoughts on Jesus. First, in Hebrews 3:1 the writer of Hebrews directs us to fix our thoughts on Jesus. In Hebrews 1 and Hebrews 2 he has been demonstrating the supremacy of Jesus Christ. Jesus is God's mouthpiece. He is superior to the prophets. He is the radiance of God's glory. He is the exact representation of God's being. Jesus is the creator and sustainer of the universe. He is God's very Son. He is heir of all things. He has sat down at God's right hand. He is superior to the angels. He is the focus of worship and service in heaven and on earth. He has been crowned with glory, honor, and praise. He has conquered death. Jesus is our merciful and faithful high priest. He forgave our sins. He pursued us to the extent that he became like us in every way and tasted death on our behalf. He is our salvation pioneer, our trailblazer, our conquering general, and our liberator. He has freed us from the power of the devil and the fear of death. The language that is used in Hebrews 3:1 (NIV) couldn't be any clearer. The writer is using a verb that emphasizes the necessity of immediate, continuous action. He isn't make a passing suggestion, but rather a forceful command. "Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess." He is saying, "Pay attention. Continuously observe. Fix your thoughts. Anchor your mind. Concentrate with intensity. Think carefully about. Contemplate Jesus Christ." He is essentially saying, "There is great importance in knowing, understanding, believing, appreciating, and absorbing everything that Christ has done." He is saying, "There is something at stake if we should neglect this important discipline of focusing our thoughts on Jesus Christ, the author of our salvation." Now you may be wondering what is at stake if we don't fix our thoughts on Jesus. What's at stake is the question we addressed in Hebrews 2:3 (NIV) a few weeks ago. "How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?" In other words, what will happen if we carelessly neglect our salvation? It must be a priority for us that every day we fix our thoughts on Jesus. Daily devotions. Bible study. Christian music. Scripture memorization. Fasting. Bible reading. Prayer. Deeper L.I.F.E. groups. Worship. Adult Bible fellowships. Christian books. Journaling. These are just a few ways that you can fix your thoughts on Jesus. So step number one given by the author of Hebrews is to fix our thoughts on Jesus Christ. Hold on to your hope. Second, the writer of Hebrews directs us to hold on to our hope. Consider two key verses. In Hebrews 3:6 (NIV) the writer says, "And we are his (God's) house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast." In Hebrews 3:14 (NIV) he says, "We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first." Both of these verses use an interesting word. The word translated "hold" in your English translation carries with it the idea of possessing. Interesting enough, this whole chapter alludes to Moses leading the Israelite nation out of Egypt through the wilderness to possess the promised land. As we know, the Israelites reluctantly followed Moses' leadership. When the time came for the Israelites to possess the land, they grumbled against Moses. They lost their confidence. They questioned God's promise. Their backbones turned into spaghetti noodles. Despite all the miraculous signs and wonders God accomplished in their midst as he delivered them from slavery in Egypt, the ten plagues, the pillar of fire, the parting of the Red Sea, and the miraculous provision of manna and quail, they reverted back to unbelief and fear! They mocked God saying in Numbers 13:31-33 (NIV), "But the men who had gone up with him said, 'We can't attack those people; they are stronger than we are. And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, 'The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.' " As a result of their unbelief Hebrews 3:16-19 (NIV) says, "Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert? And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief." Hebrews 3:6 and Hebrews 3:14 are reminders that our eternal security is contingent on our faith. We have come to share in Christ if we take into possession the courageous promises of God and if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. These verses provide both a promise and a warning. They promise that God will make good on all his promises in Christ if we take his promises into our possession. But they also provide a warning that should we loosen our grip on our hope and fail to embrace God's promises through faith, all may be lost. Carefully guard your heart. To make the most of today, the writer of Hebrews has encouraged us to first fix our thoughts on Jesus, and to secondly possess God's salvation promises in Christ. Third, the writer directs us to carefully guard our hearts. Hebrews 3:7-12 (NIV) says, "So, as the Holy Spirit says: 'Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert, where your fathers tested and tried me and for forty years saw what I did. 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. 'So I declared an oath in my anger, 'They shall never enter my rest.' See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God." Hebrews 3:15-19 (NIV) reads, "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion. Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert? And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief." The Israelites exasperated God in a number of ways. They ignored God's voice. They hardened their hearts. They allowed themselves to become entrapped in sin. They tested God by pushing the boundaries of his grace. They conveniently forgot how he delivered them from captivity in Egypt. They allowed their hearts to be captivated by idols and by the enticements of life. They willfully sinned against God. They resisted God's leadership through his servant Moses. I want you to carefully consider a number of ways that we can make the same mistake the Israelites made by letting their hearts become hardened by sin's deceitfulness. One mistake we make is hiding our sin. We tell a lie to cover a lie. We go out of our way to conceal a sin instead of taking responsibility for it. We carelessly push boundary after boundary and then throw ourselves on God's grace saying, "Ooops. No big deal. God's grace covers it." We greatly diminish the threat a certain sin poses to our spiritual life. We say, "I don't do it that often. It was just a small bet. I'll only take a swig. I'll only go so far with my boyfriend or girlfriend. Everyone loses his temper. I don't really need to forgive. I'll just take a quick peek. I'll pay back the money I took. No one will care if I cheat on this test." It is amazing what a great forest fire can be ignited by a tiny spark or what a great avalanche can be caused by the slightest disturbance. The Israelites didn't just go out one day and say, "Let's build a golden calf and offer sacrifices to it for kicks." They took gradual, incremental steps into sin. The tiniest acts of deceit grew and grew. Their consciences became seared, little by little. Encourage one another today. Fixing our thoughts on Jesus. Holding on to our hope. Guarding our hearts. These are important steps for us to take today and every day. Let me mention quickly one last step that the author of Hebrews mentions. In Hebrews 3:13 (NIV) he says, "But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness." We have a responsibility to encourage each other in our spiritual journeys. We need each other daily. We need one another's feedback, one another's support, one another's discernment, and one another's accountability. The sobering truth is that eventually, our today will be our last day. In that moment only one thing is going to matter. That is our relationship with Jesus Christ. Hebrews reminds us that the time for procrastination is drawing to a close. We must step forward and fix our thoughts on Jesus, possess his salvation promises through faith, guard our hearts from sin, and encourage one another. Today is just too important for you to wait until tomorrow.