For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as we did when we first became Christians, we will share in all that belongs to Christ. But now is the time. Never forget the warning, ‘Today if you hear God’s voice speaking to you, do not harden your hearts against him, as the people of Israel did when they rebelled against him in the desert” (Hebrews 3:12-15).
We’ve already talked a little about what “salvation” means and pointed out that once someone is “saved” by their faith in Jesus’ death on the cross as the payment for the things they’ve done wrong, they don’t ever have to worry about losing that salvation or becoming “unsaved.”
But… there are some verses in the Bible that seem to imply that someone could turn away from God and lose their salvation if they don’t remain faithful. A good example of this would be some of the verses quoted above: “Beware then of your own hearts, dear brothers, lest you find that they, too, are evil and unbelieving and are leading you away from the living God” and “…if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as we did when we first became Christians, we will share in all that belongs to Christ” (Hebrews 3:12, 14).
So how can we make sense of these teachings that seem to be in conflict with each other? Well, a key that can help unlock our understanding of this problem is actually found within the Scripture quoted at the top of this page. You see, a closer look at this little passage uncovers an important clue that might otherwise be easily missed. Here it is…
This whole question becomes a lot easier to deal with if you take the time to check into the example that God has provided for you here in His Word. So what event is spoken of when it says, do not harden your hearts against him, as the people of Israel did when they rebelled against him in the desert?
Well, this episode occurred in the Old Testament book of Numbers in chapters 13 and 14. This part of the Bible talks about Moses and the people of Israel as they moved towards the land that God had promised to give them after He had freed them from slavery in Egypt. Now before we talk about the meaning of this event, let’s take a few moments to check it out first- but get ready to move fast because we’re going to go quickly through these chapters.
Here we go…
After exploring the land for forty days, the men returned… This was their report to Moses: ‘We arrived in the land you sent us to see, and it is indeed a magnificent country- a land flowing with milk and honey. Here is some of its fruit as proof. But the people living there are powerful, and their cities and towns are fortified and very large. We also saw the descendants of Anak who are living there!'”
(The Doctor’s note: The descendants of Anak were a race of people whose name literally meant “the giants.” Perhaps the closest equal to the people of Anak today would be a large group of people who were all the same size as today’s NBA basketball players).
“But Caleb tried to encourage the people as they stood before Moses. “Let’s go at once to take the land,’ he said. ‘We can certainly conquer it!’ But the other men who had explored the land with him answered, ‘We can’t go up against them! They are stronger than we are!’ So they spread discouraging reports about the land among the Israelites: ‘The land we explored will swallow up any who go to live there. All the people we saw were huge. We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak. We felt like grasshoppers next to them, and that’s what we looked like to them!’
“Then all the people began weeping aloud, and they cried all night. Their voices rose in a great chorus of complaint against Moses and Aaron. ‘We wish we had died in Egypt, or even here in the wilderness!’ they wailed. ‘Why is the Lord taking us to this country only to have us die in battle? Our wives and little ones will be carried off as slaves! Let’s get out of here and return to Egypt!’ Then they plotted among themselves, ‘Let’s choose a leader and go back to Egypt!’
“Two of the men who had explored the land, Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, tore their clothing. They said to the community of Israel, ‘The land we explored is a wonderful land! And if the Lord is pleased with us, he will bring us safely into that land and give it to us. It is a rich land flowing with milk and honey, and he will give it to us! Do not rebel against the Lord, and don’t be afraid of the people of the land. They are only helpless prey to us! They have no protection, but the Lord is with us! Don’t be afraid of them!’
“But the whole community began to talk about stoning Joshua and Caleb. Then the glorious presence of the Lord appeared to all the Israelites from above the Tabernacle. And the Lord said to Moses, ‘How long will these people reject me? Will they never believe me, even after all the miraculous signs I have done among them?” …Because you complained against me, none of you who are twenty years old or older and were counted in the census will enter the land I swore to give you. The only exceptions will be Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun” (NLT). (1)
So now that you’ve read the story of the example that God has given to us in His Word, what do you think that Hebrews 3:12 means when it says, “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God” (NIV)? Or how about Hebrews 3:14 when it says, “We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first” (NIV)?
Well, it simply means that we shouldn’t follow the bad example of the people seen in the Scripture quoted above or copy their kind of “faith.” These people knew and accepted God but when the pressure was on and it was time to really show faith in Him, what happened? Well, the answer is easy- they bailed out and chose fear over faith! These people were unwilling to trust God to deliver for them and even when they did see God come through for them, they were unwilling to continue trusting Him.
This kind of “faith” is totally different from the kind of faith that God is really looking for. You see, a real, God-honoring, saving kind of faith is demonstrated by a willingness to trust God even when the circumstances don’t look so good. This is important because there will surely come a time when you will have to face an obstacle that is too big for you to handle- just like the people of Israel did as seen in the Scripture quoted above. When that time comes (as it surely will) how will you respond in that situation?
Well, the thing not to do is to follow the example that we just read about in the book of Numbers. Those people showed by their actions that their “faith in God” was not the kind of faith that God really wanted. Sadly, that whole group of people never got to see the things that God wanted to give them because they preferred to live in fear rather than trust God to help them to overcome the problems in their lives.
A person with the kind of faith that saves demonstrates it by handling his or her problems in a totally different way than the people that we see in the book of Numbers. First, they are honest with God about the areas where they afraid or falling short of what they should be. Next, they ask God for help in trusting Him to accomplish the things that He wants to do in their lives. Finally, they ask God to help them to continue living the kind of life that shows real faith in Him. A person who does this will never have to worry about being lost because a real, God-honoring kind of faith doesn’t reject God in fear or unbelief.
Don’t miss out on the great things that God wants to do in your life because of fear or unbelief- choose faith over fear.