It wasn’t a good mail day. I’d gotten a letter from the IRS saying that I owed money—a lot of money. And to make matters worse, the letter came with a warning: if I didn’t pay up within a couple of weeks, I’d get a stiff penalty. Honestly, the letter left me confused. I’d used a reputable accountant. I’d filed my return weeks before. What could have caused me to owe so much? I double-checked my records, and the mistake was obvious; I had filed the return, but I’d forgotten to mail the check.
I can laugh about it now, but that letter produced a lot of anxiety at the time. I don’t look forward to warning letters. If I’m honest, I don’t really like warnings. They’re not always positive and encouraging, but they’re necessary. I’d rather be warned than incur a steep penalty.
The author of Hebrews invites us to hear a needed warning today. He reminds us how the human heart is bent toward evil. Like the Israelites who longed to go back to Egypt (Exodus 16:3,17:3), our sinful hearts can delude us into thinking we’re more secure apart from God than we are walking with Him. We’ve got to watch out and guard ourselves against an “evil, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God” (Hebrews 3:12).
This passage in Hebrews 3 also tells us that we need our friends, wives, and church leaders to step in daily to tell us when we’re headed in the wrong direction. We are human, which means we’re also sinners. We forget to mail checks on time; we lose our keys; and we sometimes lose our cool. Maybe it’s easy to speak up when it’s something small. But when I see a brother who’s slandering his pastor or putting down his wife behind her back, am I tempted to think, Well, that’s his business, and just walk away?
Hebrews doesn’t let me off the hook so easily. It instructs us to encourage one another daily, so we’re not hardened by sin’s deception (v.13). And as we caution one another, we also inspire confidence, believing that all who keep holding on to the reality Christ gives us at the start will share in His eternal rest at the end (v.14).
The time for giving and receiving these warnings and encouragements is now. We must speak up and warn one another before it’s too late. If you see me headed in the wrong direction on a one-way street, please honk your horn! I need a course correction because I’m headed for destruction. The direction of our souls requires this same level of urgency. As Paul writes elsewhere, “Now is the acceptable time; now is the day of salvation!” (2 Corinthians 6:2).
Written by Jared Kennedy