Wednesday, November 01, 2006

What today?

Today's New Testament reading, from Hebrews chapter 3, contains this quote from the Old Testament:
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 desert ...
Hebrews 3.7-8
I love this part! First, the focus is on what we do today: basically "Don't harden your hearts." Don't resist. Compared to other things you could imagine, hard commands like "Love one another as I have loved you" -- that's hard -- this one doesn't seem nearly so difficult. The job basically is not to resist his voice.

I heard that recently, and it seemed right, but I wasn't sure where it came from. Well, there's "Do not put out the Spirit's fire" from 1 Thessalonians, and James also tells us to submit ourselves to God. Anyway, now I know.

Specifically, the author warns us against having a "sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God" (3.12), which fits right into the flow of this letter. Chapter 2 began with "We must pay careful attention... lest we drift away" (which sounds like it was written especially for me) and chapter 3 begins with an exhortation to "fix your thoughts on Jesus." He continues:
But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.
Hebrews 3.13
What kind of encouragement do we need to give each other? The kind that will prevent our hearts from drifting away, that encourages us to fix our thoughts on Jesus, that encourages us toward faith, toward God, and away from sin.

Something I try to remember along these lines, though I often forget, is to ask, "What do you suppose God is doing here?" or "What do hear God saying to you?" This can be tricky, because people sometimes think you're saying something you're not. But it helps if they already know that you care about them. Which God does too!

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