Driving a car here in Asia is a bit different than driving a car back in Oklahoma. For one thing, drivers in Oklahoma City don’t usually need to watch out for two-wheeled wooden carts pulled by oxen as we do here. Oxen are huge, sturdy animals. Hitting a single ox head on with your car would be the equivalent of hitting a herd of deer. Ox: 1 point. Your car: 0 points.
To my surprise, though, there are no road signs out along the mountain roads to warn drivers of the potential danger for oxen on the road. Perhaps it's because most drivers here know that you should always be aware of oxen on the road. They know this is a real danger. But there are plenty of signs that read, “No drinking and driving.” That is telling. The types of signs we see on the road tell us a lot about what's important to look out for. That means whenever a road sign is present, we should really pay attention to it.
The book of Hebrews contains several warnings, road signs if you will, along the path of life for those who consider themselves believers in Christ. One such road sign is found in Hebrews 3:12-14.
Watch out, brothers, so that there won’t be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart that departs from the living God. But encourage each other daily, while it is still called today, so that none of you is hardened by sin’s deception. For we have become companions of the Messiah if we hold firmly until the end the reality that we had at the start. (HCSB)
This road sign is a warning to "watch out, so that you don't depart from the living God.” Departing from the living God is the equivalent of going off the side of a mountain road. Death would be the result.
The purpose of this warning is to keep you on the path, the path of believing in Christ. What are we supposed to watch out for? An evil, unbelieving heart. Disobedience is the direct result of unbelief (Heb 3:18). And the result of an evil, unbelieving heart is death: departing from the living God. Are you apathetic or unconcerned about obeying the commands of God? Watch out, the writer of Hebrews is warning you.
But is that it? Just a warning with no other help?
These verses don't merely say that we should watch out; they also give us the way to stay on the path. Verse 13 advises, "Encourage each other daily . . . so that none of you is hardened by sin's deception." We need "daily, each-other encouragement." We need each other in the body of Christ. The church is one of the primary means of grace that God has given to help us to stay on the path, to help us not to depart from the living God. We need daily encouragement from one another to fight sin and to fight unbelief.
There is not only a warning and a way to avoid the peril, but there is also a promise in verse 14. "We have become companions of the Messiah if we hold firmly until the end the reality that we had at the start."
It does not say "we will become," but rather "we have become." The difference in the verb tense gives us a very different idea. The "daily, each-other encouragement" is the means that God has ordained to keep us who have become companions “keeping on” being companions until the end. Praise God that He provides the warning, the way, and also this promise.
Who needs encouragement from you today? Specifically, who needs encouragement to fight against disobedience and an evil, unbelieving heart, so that they are not hardened by sin's deception and ultimately depart from the living God?
And from whom do you receive your daily encouragement from to fight sin and unbelief? If no one, then watch out!