16 November, 2021

Nov. 7 | Hold Firm to the End

by | 1 November, 2021 | 0 comments

If Jesus is superior to everyone and everything (September lessons), and if he is the ultimate high priest who can connect us to God (October lessons), then our best response is to place all our faith in him. Faith, Bible writers testify, is appropriating God’s grace for our lives. During this unit, students will learn how to hold firm in their faith, grow up in faith, persevere in faith, and be known among the faithful.

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Unit: Hebrews (Part 3)
Theme: Faith
Lesson Text: Hebrews 3:7-19
Supplemental Text: Hebrews 6:1-8; 10:26-39; Proverbs 4:23-27; Jude 3-4
Aim: Beware of drifting away from the faith.

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Download a PDF of this week’s lesson material (the Study by Mark Scott, Application by David Faust, and Discovery Questions by Michael C. Mack): LOOKOUT_Nov7_2021.

Send an email to cs@christianstandardmedia.com to receive PDFs of the lesson material each month.

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In 1987, Henry Dempsey showed he knew something about hanging on. Dempsey was piloting a 15-passenger turboprop, with no passengers aboard, from Lewiston, Maine, to Boston when he heard a rattle in the back of the plane, the Associated Press reported. As he went to check on the noise, turbulence threw him against the stairway door, which fell open, and Dempsey was partially sucked out of the plane. He managed to grab the railings and then lay upside down on the stairs as the plane traveled at 190 mph nearly a mile high in the air.

The co-pilot saw a warning light, assumed the worst, and quickly tried to land the plane. As the plane landed, Dempsey’s face was only 12 inches above the runway. When it was over, his hands had to be pried off the door’s railing. Now that’s “hanging on”! And hanging on is what Christians do to ensure they do not drift away from the faith.

The writer of Hebrews argued that Jesus was superior to the angels and to Moses (1:5–3:6). In light of that truth, the first exhortation was to pay close attention to what was heard in the gospel (2:1). The second exhortation was to hold on to that message lest one’s heart become hardened and be led into unbelief.

Hardened Hearts
Hebrews 3:7-11

The Holy Spirit, through the Hebrew writer, gave a contemporary application of an Old Testament Psalm (95:7b-11). Notice the use of the present tense, “The Holy Spirit says.” In Between Two Worlds, John Stott said God speaks through what he has already spoken. Stott argued for four successive stages of God’s voice: the wilderness event, the psalmist’s use of it later, the Hebrew writer’s use of it to his situation, and when we read it into our settings today. After all, today is always “this very day.”

Psalm 95 is a call-to-worship psalm. It calls us to sing to the Lord and make a joyful noise to him. It calls us to celebrate his greatness, his superiority, and the fact that he is our creator. Verses 1-7a are upbeat and happy. But the psalm shifts gears in verses 7b-11. The point might be this: Because the Lord is so great, we dare not become hardened to him. When the things of God become common to us, we need to be cautious and think back to our religious forefathers.

Psalm 95 recalled dark times in Israel’s past. Two “water events” were the backdrop to this warning. Exodus 17:1-7 (Massah) and Numbers 20:2-13 (Meribah) were occasions when Israel needed water. God brought water for them out of a rock (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:4). But the people’s complaining proved their hearts were hard. So severe was the Numbers 20 incident that even Moses was kept out of the Promised Land for not treating God as holy before the people.

The word hardened was used figuratively in the Bible to describe Pharaoh (Exodus 9:12; 10:1, 19, 27), the Ephesians (Acts 19:9) and potentially, anyone (Romans 9:18). For 40 years following the rebellion at Kadesh Barnea (the spot from which the spies were sent out and the place where the 40 years of wandering began) God was tested and tried by Israel. This angered the Lord (something mentioned three times in our text), and he declared that certain Israelites would never enter his rest—a theme discussed in Hebrews 4.

Unbelieving Hearts
Hebrews 3:12-19

A heart that becomes hard can all too quickly become unbelieving. The Hebrew writer may sound like a broken record because he made a second use of Psalm 95. But he raised the stakes the second time. A hard heart can test the Lord, but an unbelieving heart can cause a person to turn away from God to the point of falling away (which is the concern of much of this Epistle).

Hearts can become sinful (evil). Hearts can become deceived. Hearts can become rebellious (moved to the point of bitterness). The Hebrew writer offered three arguments to help guard against those occurrences: (1) Keep encouraging each other as long as it is called “Today.” Encouragement is perhaps a daily task. (2) Hold on to one’s original conviction. This was our initial share in Christ (i.e., our becoming a Christian and partnering with him). (3) Take note of Israel’s example and avoid it like the plague. If we want to know where unbelief leads, just look to the bodies strewn in the wilderness. It’s not a pretty picture, but it happened. Hang on like Henry Dempsey!

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