Encouragement Softens the Heart
“See to it, brothers, 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 we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first” (Heb. 3:12-14).
“And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming” (1 John 2:28).
It is entirely possible to be among the brethren and have a sinful, unbelieving heart. Judas did. Judas’ hands mingled in the bowl with the hand of God the Son, but his heart belonged to the enemies of Christ who bought his betrayal for 30 pieces of silver. The fact that all the disciples asked in turn, “Surely, not I Lord?” reveals the uncertainty they had about their own hears. As the songwriter puts it: “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.”
What a desperately wicked and deceitful and frail thing is the human heart. And by degrees, subtly and unnoticed, the heart may become unbelieving. It may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. So much so that some who seemed to begin with Christ may finish without Him.
The antidote: “continue in him,” that is, Christ.
The practical application: “Encourage one another daily.”
The encroachment and deceit of sin is so steady and unrelentless, we need to daily encourage one another. We need others to speak every day the words of life, to assure us in the faith, and by such words to purge our hearts of unbelief and hardness. As Paul Tripp put it, “Our words are the principal tool God uses in the work he does through us” (Winning the War of Words, p. 199). What we say to one another every day has serious spiritual importance; it may be the difference between increasing hardness and increasing confidence before God.
“But if we continue in Him, we may be confident and unashamed on the Day He returns.” This morning I asked my youngest daughter what she thought it would be like when Jesus returned. Her first response: people will be afraid. I think she nailed it. But I asked her why she thought that. “Because it will be a surprise and shocking,” came the reply. Again: spot on. Sinful men are never ready to meet a holy God.
But for those whose thoughts are fixed on Christ, who love His coming, who long for His appearing, who are in Him, the Day of His return will be a Day filled with confidence and no shame. We will be ready to meet Him, and seeing Him we will be like Him (1 John 3:2), and seeing Him we will be satisfied completely (Ps. 17:15). What a great and glorious Day!
So, in view of that coming Day, let me ask you: How is your day going so far? How might it change by thinking for a moment about that coming Day when Christ will appear and we will be caught up together with Him in the air? Will we be confident and unashamed because we have continued in Him in faith, love and hope? Will others be confident and unashamed because today we encouraged them with the word of life?
I pray so. For every day we need to be encouraged so that our hearts might not harden and our confidence be made solid.