HEBREWS 3:1-18

Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest. He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house. Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. “Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house,” bearing witness to what would be spoken by God in the future. But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.

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 wilderness, where your ancestors tested and tried me, though for forty years they saw what I did. That is why I was angry with that generation; I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.’ So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’”

See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 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 come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end. As has just been said: “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 perished in the wilderness? 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.

What does God expect of me? How can I please Him? What makes Him happy? Furthermore, what can I possibly give back to Him who created everything? After reading Hebrews chapter three, I was prayer walking with God this morning and contemplating my relationship with Him. And I was reminded by the Spirit (because I really do believe prayer is a two-way street, a “conversation” if you will) that God has already done everything possible, everything that needs to be done, in order to secure my eternal life. My salvation is God’s gift to me… Ephesians 2:8-10 still says:  “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the GIFT of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”

I know it sometimes seems impossible to believe, but it really IS a GIFT. I’ve never earned it, never deserved it, never done anything to merit it. All my believing, all my repenting, all my dedication, all my good works, all my obedience, all my worship and devotion — well, yes, it pleases Him, it makes Him smile, and I like that because I love Him and want to honor Him — but it doesn’t accomplish one single thing as far as actually washing away my sin and making me right with God. HE does all of that! That’s HIS work, not mine! And that is HIS GIFT to me. Here ya go, lil Salty, God says… and Jesus, who lived a righteous, sinless life, stretches out HIS nail scarred hands and dies a sacrificial death for me! Now what? Now, only one thing remains to be done, the only thing that can be done, the only thing that I, on my part, can ever really do—accept it, RECEIVE the GIFT! Ahhhhh… so simple, so beautiful, so free and easy.

But wait! Why then did the Hebrew writer have to tell us, “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God,” and “encourage one another daily… so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness,” and “do not harden your hearts…” Is it possible that “accepting” God’s gift,” or “receiving the gift” involves a little more than simply wanting it; or even simply saying “yes” to it?

Have you ever watched the motion picture “The Matrix” – many, if not most, of us have.  And for those of you who have seen the movie, remember these classic lines:

Morpheus says to Neo: “The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window, or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work, when you go to church, when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.

Neo says: What truth?

Morpheus replies: That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else, you were born into bondage, born into a prison that you cannot smell or taste or touch. A prison for your mind. Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself. This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember: all I’m offering is the truth. Nothing more.

The truth, and nothing more? Eh, eh, eh — yeah, but what Neo doesn’t remember at this point is that “truth” always comes with A WHOLE LOT MORE.  After taking the “red pill”, Neo’s entire existence is absolutely, completely, utterly, and permanently altered beyond all imagination.  And a little later in the movie, we find another classic line:

Cypher says to Neo: You know, I know what you’re thinking, because right now I’m thinking the same thing… Actually, I’ve been thinking about it ever since I got here… (he raises his glass, and drinks) Why, oh why, didn’t I take the blue pill !?!?!

When I turn my ear toward Jesus, and listen to His words, rather than to my Calvinist religious friends, the truth emerges that: to lay hold of His precious gift will indeed require so much more of me than just accepting it and enjoying its benefits. But, unlike Morpheus, Jesus gives us opportunity to know right upfront exactly what those “truth changes” will entail. And, essentially, fundamentally, what it entails is MY HEART surrendered to HIS WILL.

Soooo, Jesus makes some pretty radical statements, such as: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:25-33). I guess this is kind of Jesus’ way of saying, THINK before you swallow that “red pill” !!!

Well, back to Hebrews 3 – When I seriously consider this text, and I mean honestly, blatantly, without being prejudiced by contemporary Calvinist religious thought, am I not challenged to consider that God in His infinite wisdom and desire to honor my free moral agency does give me the right to repudiate His precious gift of salvation, even after having accepted it? Is it possible, then, that my rebellious heart could ever let go of that gift, chose to refuse it, decide that I don’t need it, or that I don’t want it anymore. Is it really possible that sin has the power to harden one’s heart to such an extent.  Will God allow me to cough up that “red pill” and just go back to my “blue pill” lifestyle – enjoying again my comfortable life of deception.

Now, I know that sin, in itself, no longer has the power to kill me because His blood is constantly cleansing me of all my sin (I John 1:7-10), and His righteousness is continually clothing me and making me pure and holy before God (Philippians 3:9); everything has been done for me, His sacrificial work is complete and finished, sin and its spiritual consequences no longer has any reign or hold over me. “There is, therefore, now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Soooooooooo, there is now only one thing that can ever really stand between me and my God, and it is not sin… it is only my rebellious heart! I can hardly imagine ever getting to the point where I was so hardened by sin’s deceitfulness that I would actually rebel against the cross and no longer want God’s gift to me. But, I know from this scripture that it CAN happen to people. And, sadly, I know from real world experience that it DOES happen to people.

Our adversary, the evil one, uses every ploy imaginable: from atheistic philosophy and secular humanism, to eastern mysticism, or even religious legalism; from modern and trendy social and political issues, to the classroom and what some call “science;” from drugs and alcohol, wealth and prosperity; from materialism, creature comforts, and ease of living, to ill health, poverty, and ruin; from immorality and illicit relationships, to guilt and fear, jealousy, and envy; from the social pressure coming at us from “friends,” family, and society at large, to our own foolish human pride… every kind of deception possible, you name it, whatever it takes, wherever WE are most vulnerable, the adversary will try to harden our hearts and steer us away from the cross, away from God’s gift, so that we no longer desire it, want it, or choose it. He wants to put back “under the influence,” (if you will) – the influence of modern society’s worldly standards.  He wants to put us back “into the matrix!  He is the master of deception.  He’s been doing it a long time; from the very beginning. And, he’s really good at it.  No wonder Jesus calls him, “a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).  Calvinists, and, sadly, modern Christianity is chalked full of them, say that it can’t happen – my Bible says it can!  Don’t let that happen to you, beloved… don’t swallow society’s lies!

Oh, Lord, my God, I know that You know that I will stumble along the way.  I will sin and fall short of Your glory, Oh God; everybody does.  But I know that is no justification for my sin. For You, Oh Lord, faced all the same temptations as a human being, as I have, yet You did not sin. I am without excuse. Furthermore, while I may manage to do some things right, and may even be tempted to think myself “good” in some respects, I remember that on one occasion You made the statement, “only God is good!” So, I know, my Lord, that there is no holiness, no righteousness, no goodness within me that I would dare to bring before You as evidence of my “goodness” or as justification for my sinful nature and acts of iniquity; as though, somehow, my goodness might outweigh my iniquity in Your eyes. I know it would never for, as Your word teaches, all my righteous deeds are like a filthy garment before You. But I’m eternally grateful, Oh Lord, that the truth of that fact does not, in itself, have the power to condemn me because the blood of of Jesus Christ, Your only begotten Son and my Lord and Savior, takes care of all that. There is no sin or rebellious deed that His blood is not sufficient cleanse. So I know, oh Lord, that the only thing that can condemn me now is my own rebellious heart succumbing to the will of the evil one and being so hardened by sin as to cause me to give up my faith and hope in Christ… something I can not imagine ever doing!

Oh Lord, I’m so glad that I dared to swallow that “red pill” of truth—the truth of your holy word. And, despite the hardships and the heartache that always seems to accompany “truth,” unlike some others, I don’t want to ever go back to “the matrix” that we know as this old world of corruption and deceit. So, Lord, please continue to wash me, bathe me, cleanse me in the crimson blood of Your sacrificial Lamb. Oh God, take my rebellious heart and break it down, empty it of me, and fill it up with YOU… and I beg, I plead, that You never ever allow my heart to outlive my love for You!”

References:

The Matrix. Directed by Lana Wachowski and Lilly Wachowski, performances by Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving. Warner Brothers, 1999.

Copyright © 2022 Philip R. Stroud

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