Would you take your Bible please this morning and turn to the book of Hebrews; and if you do not have a Bible, open up the bulletin, and you'll notice right inside the bulletin the outline of today's message as well as the Scriptures we're going to quote. And I want you to know that this is a Bible-based message and I hope it'll be a blessing to you. Let us stand together, shall we, as we stand for the reading of the Bible; and we're going to turn to Hebrews chapter number 3, Hebrews chapter 3, and we're going to continue our series this morning entitles "One Another," and the message today is entitled "Exhort One Another." And I think you'll understand how it applies to our veterans and to all of us in just a moment as we get into the message. But Hebrews is the book of the Bible we're looking at, chapter 3, and we're going to read in just a moment beginning in verse 12.
How many of you veterans are glad we did not require or even ask you to wear your uniforms today? Let me see where you guys are and you gals, all right? And several of you did, and you look sharp, and we appreciate that. I remember years ago we had a special Veterans Day emphasis, and one of our veterans came up to me and he was pointing at something on his lapel. It was the pin for the 1st Calvary Division in Korea, and he wanted me to look at that and see it; it was nice. And then he said to me, he said, "This is the only part of my uniform that fits anymore." And so, I took a little wisdom from that admonition and tried to remember that for today.
Hebrews 3:12, please. It says, "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called 'today'; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end; while it is said, 'Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation.'" I want to speak to you on the subject "Exhort One Another Daily." Let's pray together.
Father, we thank you for the privilege today of remembering, first and foremost, what you did on the cross; but secondly, remembering what our veterans did as they enlisted to serve this great nation. Thank you again for their sacrifice and the sacrifice of their families. And now, Lord, speak to our hearts in these final moments, I pray in Jesus' name. Amen. You may be seated.
Today we honor men and women who gave of their lives to defend our freedom; and because of their sacrifice, millions around the world today enjoy the liberty of freedom. They enjoy the opportunity to worship, even as we enjoy today. And wherever our patriots rest today, we offer them respect and gratitude, for they are deserving, and their families as well. And we pause today to say thank you for what they have done for us.
This morning, as we continue in a preaching series entitled "One Another," it speaks to the fabric of the greatness of the church, and also of a nation yielding itself to God; for together we have seen God bless this nation and this church as well. And the Bible teaches us that we're to exhort one another along the way, that we're to help one another along the way.
An exhortation is really two parts. First, there is a warning that is often given when we exhort someone; and secondly, there is a witness where we might tell someone what we have experienced. For example, in a military bootcamp situation, the drill instructor is training his troops and helping to prepare them for success, and he is giving to them warnings. He is warning them about detrimental facets, and difficult and dangerous facets of their job. And oftentimes he is giving them a witness, for many of the drill instructors have seen combat, or they have been in difficult situations. And so they are testifying and witnessing of what they have seen and what they have experienced, as they endeavor to build a stronger soldier. I heard of one drill instructor who said to his troops, he said, "Now there is no such thing as a stupid question, but some questions do require pushups, so keep that in mind." So I think some of you understand that.
But the drill instructor is warning and he is witnessing. He is warning them of things that could take their life in an instant; he is witnessing of war and combat. He is challenging them to work together as a team and to stay focused, that they don't get lost in the fog of war, in the haze of emotion that can come during difficult times. Well, I believe that every one of us need exhortation. I believe that all of us need to be warned, and all of us need to hear testimony of the great things that God has done. Every believer needs exhortation, whether we recognize it or not. Every veteran needs exhortation and encouragement as well.
Now as Christian soldiers, we must beware of the fog of war. And sometimes we look around at the culture and we think of the spiritual tragedies taking place in our country, and we see the legalization of things that should not be made legal. We see across the land the deterioration of the family unit, which is really the foundation of any nation. And sometimes in the fog of this war we can be discouraged as Christian people, and we need to be exhorted, and we need to be reminded of our responsibility today.
Sometimes a veteran might wonder, "Is this what I fought for? Is this what I gave 10 years, 12 years, 30 years of my life for?" And we see people burning the flag, and we see people showing disrespect. And sometimes a veteran may also need to be exhorted and reminded that, "Your labor is not in vain, that I would not be preaching and we would not be assembling today were it not for veterans who gave their time and gave of their life."
I remember a few years ago standing at the American Military Cemetery in Manila, and as I went up to one of the larger monuments, they listed all of those that had fallen during the war and they had their names there in alphabetical order. And I began to look for those that had the same last name as I did, and I looked at that monument I found the names of two of my uncles, and I just paused there for a moment as I thought to myself about these young men, 19 and 20 years old, who had left Colorado and had gone to fight for their country and had died in Asia. And perhaps there would have been those at the time who thought that it was a waste and wondered all about the loss of their lives.
But I really believed as I stood there that it was not the loss of a life, it was the investment of a life. And, in fact, I thought about, "Why am I in the Philippines?" And I was there to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. In fact, I preached it that night to more than 7,000 people; and that would have never been possible without men and women who went and who gave their lives. And by the thousands they perished; but today there are millions of people in that country who worship the living Savior, and millions who have a better level of living, as is evidenced, I think, in this next picture of just some of the buildings that surrounded that cemetery. What a contrast to show that their lives were not wasted.
I think of another occasion several years back as I was preaching in Germany, and we went to the American Military Cemetery in Luxembourg, and there we looked at the different battlefronts that our soldiers had served in; and it was just amazing to see all the places and all of the patterns and plans that had been put into place by General Patton and others, and then to see again the white crosses representative of those that had died there in Europe defending freedom. And I stood with the missionary there at General Patton's grave and just tried to get a sense of the history of it all. And again I thought, "Why am I here in this country?" And I was there preaching the gospel in churches; and people trusted Jesus Christ as their Savior. And I can guarantee you, I would not have been there doing that if someone like Hitler was still in charge in Europe. You see, it's because of the sacrifice of our veterans that we are able to propagate the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Back during World War II, every soldier received a gift on their way to the battlefield, and it was really just a little New Testament of the Bible. New Testament and Psalms; can you imagine that, given to the soldiers. There was no ACLU, there was no one to argue about it, it was just commonly done, and it was gratefully received. You see, the common belief at that time was there are no atheists in foxholes, and that there will come a time in every man and woman's life when we must consider, "What about after this life? And what is God's purpose for my life?" And so, I want you to come with me this morning as we think about our veterans and on this 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, as we consider all of these sacrifices worldwide, and I want you to hear the exhortation that is given to us by the apostle Paul here in this passage.
First of all, we see the warning. And I want you to notice the warning here. The Bible says in verse 12, "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God." Now the word here "take heed" tells us that this is a command, this is something to pay attention to. The drill instructor would say, "Don't miss this. You've got to keep this with you and never forget this; I want you to hold onto it."
Sometimes we sit in church and, you know, I think it would be a humbling thing for pastors sometime to say, "What did you hear today? What was the message about?" Some of you might say, "Uh, God?" Sometimes we don't get all that we should get out of it. So he says, "Listen up, take heed."
There was a military instructor giving some recruits some self-defense techniques, and he was trying to teach them some hand-to-hand combat; and at the end of his instruction, he said to his soldiers, he said, "Now, what steps would you take if a man came after you swinging a big machete?" and one of the privates said, "I would take a big step in the opposite direction." He didn't really comprehend all of the instruction that was given. But I want you to hear the warning that is given here, and it is a warning against unbelief. It is a warning against unbelief.
Tragically, America has become a place where the fastest growing religious group in America is the non-religious group, 16 percent of Americans who say, "You cannot know God," or even say, "There is no God." But the Bible says here in verse 12, "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief."
Now notice the place of unbelief; it is the heart, an evil heart of unbelief. The heart is the seat of the emotions, it is the seat of our will. And an unbelieving heart was the cause of Israel's apostacy many years prior when Moses said, "Let my people go." We watched as Nebuchadnezzar had an unbelieving and a hardened heart. And Israel at times struggled with this as well.
Unbelief, again, way back in the garden of Eden even with Adam and Eve. For the Bible tells us that God said, "Of the tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat." And Satan came to Eve and Satan said, "Yea, hath God said?" He said, "You will not surely die if you partake of this fruit." Well, we know biblically exactly what happened. We know that when that unbelief came into Adam and Eve's heart a terrible spiritual death sentenced passed over the human race. And the Bible says in Romans 5:12, "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so sin passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." It was a place of unbelief found in their heart.
And I want to challenge you this morning. It's a wonderful thing to be a veteran. I suppose in some ways some would say I'm a veteran in ministry, 32 years of ministry. But the longer we serve and the older we get, we've got to guard against a hard heart. We've got to guard against an unbelieving or a callous heart. We've got to be willing to keep reaching out and serving, to keep reaching out and helping, even when we don't win the battles, or even when things don't go the way we wish they would have gone.
The place of unbelief is the heart, and the penalty of unbelief is very, very tragic. The Bible tells us in John 3:16 these words: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." But notice in verse 18, please, it says this: "He that believeth on him is not condemned": in other words, if you believe on Jesus, there's no condemnation, "but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."
You see, there's a terrible penalty to a man who says, "No God." The Bible says, "The fool hath said in their heart, 'No God." And we see that there is an unbelieving spirit that is being challenged here, and so we are warned against unbelief. And notice, secondly, we are warned against a hard heart, we are warned against this. In verse 13, the Bible says, "But exhort one another daily, while it is called 'today'; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin."
Now let me tell you how we can get a real hard heart, and that is by continuing in a life of sin. And that's why some people never want to go to church; they want to live in their sin and never be reminded of it. But the Bible says that the deceitfulness of sin will bring a hardness to our heart, like cholesterol in your arteries, something that needs to be treated medically. God says, "You don't want to let hardening of your spiritual heart take place. You don't need the hardening of your spiritual arteries."
Stephen was speaking to the Sanhedrin, and they were a religious ruling body of the first century, and they were very, very rebellious toward God and proudful of heart. And Stephen said to them, "Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye." And I know many of you, and others today I don't know; but I just urge you today: don't resist the Holy Spirit. Don't say no to God. Don't let your heart grow harder and harder and harder. Sin hardens the heart, and rejecting the truth hardens the heart.
Notice what it says in verse 15: "While it is said, 'Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your heart.'" Did you see that phrase "if you hear his voice"? If you'll hear his voice, harden not your heart. In other words, if you don't hear God's voice, your heart will grow harder and harder.
Satan will deceive. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 11:3, "But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ." In other words, even as Eve was corrupted, so our minds can be corrupted if we do not keep a tender heart toward God.
And so here is a warning, and the warning that is given in this exhortation is, "Harden not your heart." Beware of unbelief. And the great sin of America today is this hardening and unbelieving heart. It is a plague, and it is a great potential danger to this nation. And we in this room this morning need to hear the warning: "Harden not your heart."
But notice not only the warning. Remember we said an exhortation is a warning, but it's also a witness. And so, now the apostle Paul through the Spirit in the Word of God is stepping forth, and he's going to testify for us as a drill instructor telling his new troops something that they needed to know from him. He tells us in this passage in verse 14, "For we are made partakers of Christ." Let's say that together: "For we are made partakers of Christ."
You see, God here is telling us that when someone receives his Son Jesus as Savior that we are partakers, we become one with the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, it says in Hebrews 1:2 that in these last times he has spoken unto us by his Son the Lord Jesus Christ. And Jesus has come to us with a revelation that we can be a part of him personally by putting our faith in him. We are partakers of Christ. And this is the promise that is given that tells us that Jesus cares for us.
Some of you have heard the story of a pilot by the name of Gail Halvorsen in 1948 and '49. And Gail Halvorsen was stationed there in Berlin; and as he would make his various routes of flying, he determined on one occasion to just get some extra candy out of a vending machine. And he made a little homemade parachute, and he began to drop candy to the children in East Berlin, children that had no candy, children that were on rations for food, and suffering under Communism. And because of his compassion, some of the other soldiers and airmen got involved, and some of the other pilots began to gather some candy, and they made more of these homemade parachutes. And soon, more and more people got involved until one day his crew dropped 850 pounds of candy in the early moments of that Berlin airlift. The Confectioners Association of America then got involved, and they began participating, until finally through the course of these many, many months, 23 tons of chocolate and candy was dropped onto schoolyards and fields in East Berlin. How many of you ladies would say, "What a day that would be to have chocolate falling from heaven on a daily basis, provided by the United States Government and companies as well"?
Well I've got to tell you something. If you lived in East Berlin in 1948 and 1949, and you had just even a piece of chocolate, it would have been a luxury for you. And a few years ago, Terrie and I were talking to an elderly lady who lived in East Berlin during that time, and you know she took from her purse, wrapped in a piece of plastic, the wrapping of one of those chocolates, and she began to tell us this story. In fact, I, frankly, did not really know the story until I heard it from her. And I'll never forget what she said to me. She said, "The greatest thing was not the candy, it was knowing that someone cared."
And I want to say to our veterans, thank you for caring; and to your families, thank you for caring. And I want you all to know this morning that when God sent his Son Jesus to die on the cross, what he was trying to tell this world is, "I care for you." "For God so loved the world, that he gave not chocolate, he gave his only begotten Son." And when Jesus shed that blood on the cross, the Bible says, "Without the shedding of the blood there's no remission for sin." Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." And that's what Jesus did on that day.
You don't get into heaven by joining a church or by being baptized. You don't go to heaven by giving money. There is one way and that is through the Lord Jesus Christ who came and offered himself for us. Jesus cares. Jesus cares so much he wants to give forgiveness to all of us today, because all of us have sinned and we come short of the glory of God. The Bible says in Colossians 3:14, "In Jesus we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sin."
Please listen. I cannot offer you forgiveness. I cannot sprinkle water on you. You cannot come into a booth and tell me your sins and I absolve your sin. No man can forgive sin, only can forgive sin, because he's the God-man, you see. Jesus Christ can forgive our sin today. Jesus Christ can give us new life. "If any man is in Christ, he's a new creature: old things are passed away." And it doesn't matter what you did or what you used to be. In Christ it's all brand new, and you receive a new citizenship in heaven. The Bible says in Colossians 1:12, "Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son."
Sometimes I'll watch how elections, and I can almost get depressed if I think about it too long. But then I have to remember: my citizenship is in heaven, and my happiness is not going to be determined by the course of political events, because I know that I'm serving the King of kings and the Lord of lords. And that all began when I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior. We can have new life in Jesus Christ, new citizenship in Jesus Christ.
But what is the pathway to that new life? This is where religion messes everything up, because religion has so many paths, so many ways, so many things to do. But Jesus really simplified it for us when he said this: "I am the way, the truth, and the life.: no man cometh to the Father, except by me." Thomas had said to him, "But, Lord, how do we know the way?" And Jesus said, "I am the way."
What is the pathway to citizenship in heaven? What is the pathway to new life with Christ? Let me just give you a few thoughts and we're done. First, every one of us need to be willing to confess that we are sinners and we fall short. We just have to humble ourselves to say – and it doesn't matter how many achievements, or how many medals, or how many accolades. All of us have to be willing to say, "I'm a sinner, I fall short." The Bible says in Romans 3:23, "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." You're looking at a preacher today who understands I'm a sinner saved by the grace of God. It's only because of his grace that we stand here today.
Secondly, we must realize the consequences of our sin. The Bible says in Romans 6:23, "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." Now you go out and work a job, and every week or two you get a paycheck – and hopefully you earned it and you deserve it. The wage of your work, you receive that wage.
God says the wage of being a sinner, what I deserve for my sin is death and separation from God. But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Eternal life is not available through myself, my works, or my church; it's available through Jesus Christ our Lord. And when I realize that I'm a sinner and that Jesus Christ came to forgive my sin, then at that point I must make a choice. At that point I've got to do something. At that point I've got to either have a hard heart that says, "Whatever; there's many religions, just pick one." Or I have a soft heart and I say, "If Jesus did that for me, then how could I ever reject him?"
You see, the Bible says this: "For by grace are you saved," that's God's part. None of us deserve to be saved. "For by grace are you saved, through faith," that's my part. I must put my faith in Jesus Christ. Just as I was on an airplane this week and trusted the pilot and the airline to bring me back to California, I put my faith in that situation in that pilot. With my soul, I must put my faith and trust in Jesus Christ. "For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God." You can't earn it, you can't buy it; it's the gift of God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Now think about faith. I think about our military, and as they volunteer for service, they really have no idea where that might take them, do they? And many of you would testify, "Boy, if I had only known where I was going to go." And I think about how they might wind up in Afghanistan, they might wind up, perhaps, in Ramstein Air Base, or Guam. They're just a hundred percent sure. They're now, by faith, signing up; and they're now going to go wherever this leads them.
I was talking to my uncle this week, and I have a cousin who served in Afghanistan with the Navy Seal, and recently was somewhere else, and I said, "Where do you think he's at now?" and he said, "I'm not a hundred percent sure." He said, "He could be back in Afghanistan. He could be in Yemen. He could be here, he could be there." He says, "To be honest with you, sometimes they tell them the night before."
Now listen to me: if you would trust your government and your military command to tell you where you're going next here on this earth, why would you not trust Jesus Christ to take you to heaven when this life is over? You express faith all throughout your lives and careers in others; but when it comes to your soul, when it comes to eternity, "For by grace are you saved through faith; and it's not of yourself: it's the gift of God, lest any man should boast."
And here's the best part: "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord," anybody. It doesn't matter what service branch. It doesn't matter what your home state is. It doesn't matter if you come of a blended home, a traditional home, no home. Whatever your background, God says, "Whosoever will call upon me and admit that they are a sinner, and trust in me as their Savior, whosoever does that shall be saved, saved from the wrath to come, given a home in heaven." And so, God has given to us a warning: "Don't harden your heart," and a witness. We can be partakers with Jesus Christ.
You know, some of you might remember a time years ago when our military really filled up because of the draft, and many men were drafted into service. And some of you were drafted, and some of you had friends that were drafted. It's different today. Today our military is volunteer. Today men and women are encouraged. We have who are known as recruiters; they encourage them, they talk to them about the potential of the military and development and such.
And I want you to understand with me today that God does not work on a draft. God is not going to force you to trust his Son for salvation. God does not work on a draft. He does not have a set number of people that can be saved and cannot be saved. In fact, he's not willing that anyone should perish. God does not work on a draft. God simply gives you and gives me the opportunity to believe. God gives you the opportunity to, by faith, receive his Son. It's a volunteer thing.
And really, really all I am this morning – you say, "Oh, Pastor, you do a lot and all of this." No, I'll tell you really what I am: I'm just sort of a recruiter this morning. I just want to encourage you to believe Jesus. And I want to tell you about some of the benefits, right? I want to tell you there's great benefit to having God live within you. There's great benefit to the family of God. There's great benefit to knowing that if our life ended now we would instantly be with the Lord in heaven. What a blessing. We're not talking about what your HR department promises you, we're talking about things that matter way, way more.
But God's not going to come and draft you into becoming one of his children, you've got to choose. And I want to challenge you today to let the Holy Spirit lead you, and to choose Jesus Christ, and to choose a life with him for all of eternity. I just simply want to exhort you today. I want to warn you: watch out for that hard heart. I want to testify that you can be a partaker of Christ and eternal life; and I pray that you will.
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