The Heart of Christ

The Heart of Christ

Consider chapter three of Hebrews. In verse 12, the preacher has to say some hard things to some in the congregation. He must warn them of having an “unbelieving heart” which could lead them to “fall away from the living God.” But notice how he begins the verse. He writes, “Take care, brothers…” Brothers. He is charitable toward these people who are poised to desert the Faith. He has not prejudged them but instead stands ready to minister to them. But how is he able to do such a thing?

The book of Hebrews is an incredibly valuable book. It is a superb theological text. Of course, it’s not a complete theology, but the theology in the book is impeccable.  For example, in the first three verses of the first chapter, we learn that the Son of God shares in the effulgence of God’s glory because He too is God but, as Son, He is the exact representation of the Father and is therefore a different person. A wonderful and foundational text for building a Trinitarian theology. What is more, Hebrews teaches us about the priesthood of Christ and all that means for our salvation. It is theologically rich.   But this sermon is also packed full of pastoral lessons.

Before I mention one of those lessons, allow me to remind you of the problem. The context may deepen the impact of the lesson. Put bluntly, people were leaving the church at Rome. I don’t mean that they were leaving the First Reformed Church of Rome and going to the Second Reformed Church of Rome. No, these people were thinking seriously about leaving the Faith. They were poised to return to Judaism. That statement almost rolls off the proverbial tongue, but it shouldn’t. These people were flirting, even dating, apostasy. Some had ceased attending worship (Hebrews 10:25). The people who remained were dull of hearing and spiritually sluggish (Hebrews 5:11; 6:12). By now, these people should have been teachers but instead they were getting more out of their first grader’s church school material!

As a minister, it would be easy to think the worst of these people and act in a way unbecoming of the Lord’s Servant, who ought to be gentle, not quarrelsome, and patient to the point of enduring evil while correcting opponents. It would be far simpler to declare these spiritual vagrants as a lost cause and to invest the remainder of one’s spiritual capital in the remnant of the congregation.

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