July 29, 2022
“Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. (Hebrews 3:12-13 NASB)
Sin is deceitful. Sin promises pleasure and fun. Sin promises freedom and fulfillment. But Satan is the father of lies and he uses sin to lure souls into destruction. If we could only see more clearly the deceitfulness of it all! Sin may bring brief pleasure and fun, but in the end, it always brings ruin and death. Sin may promise freedom and fulfillment, but in reality, it always brings enslavement and spiritual poverty.
Not only does sin deceive, but it also hardens. Some may think that they can play around with sin, reap the temporary pleasures, and repent later. But this is a deadly game because sin hardens the heart and sears the conscience over time. Sin can harden the heart so much that a person no longer wants to listen to the word of God and no longer responds to it. Sin can make a person hostile to God and to the truth of His word.
Because of the great dangers of sin, we need to make sure that we are taking care of our hearts. We need to be very careful that our hearts don’t fall away from God. You and I can and should be helping one another with this. We need to be encouraging one another every day, urging one another to stay true to the Lord and to not be deceived by the temporary, deceitful pleasures of sin. We all could probably do a better job of this. It is an important job that each of us have from the Lord. We also need to make a commitment to be assembling with the saints on the Lord’s Day. We need to make that commitment for our own sakes as a way of strengthening our own hearts, and we need to make that commitment for our brothers and sisters. We need to encourage one another! And not just on the Lord’s Day, but every day!
Sin is deceitful. Sin hardens. Sin destroys. Would you reach out to someone today to encourage their heart? Would you reach out to give encouragement to your brethren throughout the week? Let’s strive to help one another in this way.
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Posted by Russell Holden
May 13, 2016
The first thing to note is that there were believers who were part of the Sanhedrin: Nicodemus (John 3:1, 4, 9; John 7:50; John 19:39) and Joseph of Arimathea (Matthew 27:57, Mark 15:43, Luke 23:50, John 19:38). That is two out of 71 members of the Sanhedrin. We have no idea whether others could have been converted after Jesus’ resurrection. Further, Acts does note priests becoming Christians (Acts 6:7). So there were those in positions of leadership who did become Christians. But I think it is safe to assume that the majority did not. So why not?
A large part of the ruling class was made up of Sadducees. The Sadducees as a sect of Judaism did not believe in the resurrection, spirits, or angels. Since they had wealth and power, they were primarily concerned about the maintenance of the status quo. So I think their reasons for rejecting Jesus were largely political. They didn’t want anyone upsetting things with the Roman Empire. They wanted to continue in their positions of prominence. Pride and possessions got in their way.
For the Pharisees and the rest of Judaism, politics also plays a part in the rejection of Jesus. It is just the politically opposite side from the Sadducees. This side wanted revolution and ultimately got it. They wanted to kick the Romans out and have Israel be in charge of Israel. This would lead to the First Jewish-Roman War (AD 66-73), which included the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, and the Bar Kochba Revolt (about AD 132-136). Jesus was offering them a kingdom, but not the kind of kingdom they wanted. I think this played a significant part in the rejection of Jesus.
We must also consider Paul’s statements in Romans 10 and 11. Paul writes: “For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.” (Romans 10:2–3 ESV) Ignorance of scripture and spiritual pride played a part.
Paul reminds his readers that a “remnant” out of Judaism did in fact respond to the gospel and were saved (Romans 11:5), but Paul does note a hardening:
What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, as it is written, “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day.” (Romans 11:7–8, ESV)
The question then is how does hardening work, whether in the case of Pharaoh in Exodus or the Jews of the first century? I take as a given: “God shows no partiality” (Acts 10:34). People are morally responsible for hardening their own heart. Yet, there is some sense in which God hardens hearts. I think it is in the fact that God presents us with his saving acts and a choice. The condition of our heart determines whether we will respond favorably to God or reject God. As the saying goes, the same sun hardens clay and melts wax.
They are very human tendencies: materialism, ignorance of scripture, and spiritual pride. God and his saving acts in history present all of us with a choice.
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Posted by Russell Holden