"Dedicated to strengthening and encouraging the Body of Christ."

While It Is Still Called "Today"

By Rich Carmicheal

    "…encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin" (Heb. 3:13).

    "…encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the Day drawing near" (Heb. 10:25).

    The need for mutual encouragement has always been important in the Christian life, but is even more so as the Day of the Lord approaches. One reason for this is the moral breakdown that is prevalent in these last days. Jesus forewarned us that before His return lawlessness would increase and most people’s love would grow cold (Matt. 24:12). Likewise, the Apostle Paul warned that in the last days difficult times would come, "…For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God…" (2 Tim. 3:1-4). As we now find ourselves in the midst of such terrible conditions, we need to encourage one another all the more to "deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus" (Titus 2:12-13).

    We also need to encourage one another to remain strong in the truth. Jesus teaches that deception will mark the last days, and He warns us to be alert and careful that no one misleads us (Matt. 24:4, 23-24). Paul adds that "the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons" (1 Tim. 4:1) and that the time will come when many "will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth…" (2 Tim. 4:3-4). Unfortunately, we are already living in the time when spiritual deception and unsound doctrine abound, even within the church.

    In light of such deception and moral darkness, I call your attention to the following exhortation: "Take care, brethren, lest there should be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart, in falling away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end; while it is said, ‘Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts…’" (Heb. 3:12-15).

The Deceitfulness of Sin

    This passage points out the truth that sin is deceitful. Since we are living in a day of growing deception and moral decay, a day in which more and more people are calling "evil good, and good evil" (Isa. 5:20), we must be especially on guard against the deceitfulness of sin.

    Sin can, of course, look very appealing and can bring a measure of satisfaction (Gen. 3:6; Heb. 11:25). However, in the end it brings destruction, judgment and death (Eph. 5:6; Jas. 1:15). In Proverbs, Solomon provides this helpful illustration: "Do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly; at the last it bites like a serpent and stings like a viper" (Prov. 23:31-32). He also warns against pursuing the lure of adultery by asking, "Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Or can a man walk on hot coals, and his feet not be scorched?" (see Proverbs 6:24-29).

    The deceitfulness of sin is so powerful and destructive, Paul addresses it again and again: "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap eternal life" (Gal. 6:7-8). "For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience" (Eph. 5:5-6). "…Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Cor. 6:9-10). "Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envyings, drunkenness, carousings, and things like these, of which I forewarn you just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God" (Gal. 5:19-21).

    The Apostle John also warns us against being misled regarding sin: "…let no one deceive you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, that He might destroy the works of the devil. No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God" (1 John 3:7-9).

    How thankful we can be that Christ was sacrificed to set us free from sin, and that in Him we are dead to sin and alive to God! (see Romans 6:1-23). In light of the precious, once-for-all sacrifice that Christ made, and the capacity He gives to us to live for righteousness, we must no longer live in sin. As the writer of Hebrews sternly warns: "…if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain terrifying expectation of judgment…" (Heb. 10:26-27).

It Is Still Called "Today"

    How thankful we can also be that the time we are living in is called "Today" (Heb. 3:13). As Paul writes, "…now is ‘the acceptable time,’ behold, now is ‘the day of salvation’" (2 Cor. 6:2). The Day of Judgment is coming, but "Today" is the day of salvation. We have the opportunity "Today" to repent and to help lead others to repentance (2 Tim. 2:25-26).

    Of course, none of us knows how long our own "Today" will be. For example, Jesus told a parable about a man with an abundance of crops who said, "This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.’" But God said to the man, "You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?" (see Luke 12:16-20).

    As James writes, we "do not know what [our] life will be like tomorrow…" (Jas. 4:14). What we do know, as far as our life on earth is concerned, is that we have this day, or even more accurately, this moment. The time to obey the Lord is right now. He is knocking now, inviting us to open the door (Rev. 3:20). It is time now to seek the Lord while He may be found; time to call upon Him while He is near (Isa. 55:6). Now is the time to "lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles…" (Heb. 12:1). We are to take action now, "knowing the time, that it is already the hour...to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. The night is almost gone, and the day is at hand. Let us therefore lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light" (Rom. 13:11-12).

Respond "Today"

    If there is anything in your life that the Lord wants you to deal with, do not wait for another day. Is there some wrong to make right? Some good work to undertake? Some sin to forsake? Let your obedience be prompt, and remain ever sensitive to the guidance of God’s Word and Spirit. "See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking…" (Heb. 12:25). Do not resist or grieve the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:51; Eph. 4:30).

    If you hear the Lord’s voice today calling you to repentance, do not harden your heart (Heb. 3:15), but open it up to His grace. The fact that He is speaking into your life is an indication of His kindness, forbearance and patience toward you (Rom. 2:4). Confess your sins, knowing that "He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). Turn away from sin, and ask the Lord to "sanctify you entirely" (1 Thes. 5:23) through the blood of Christ (Heb. 13:12) and by the work of the Holy Spirit (1 Pet. 1:2). Ask Him to sanctify you in the truth; His Word is truth (John 17:17).

    Today is a precious gift from the Lord. Take full advantage of the opportunity He is giving to you to give your heart fully to Him. "Come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand. Today, if you would hear His voice, do not harden your hearts…" (Psa. 95:6-8).