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Anything But Apathy
Scripture: Hebrews 3:12-19
Track 5 of 11 in the Life-Changing Words series
Running time: 37 minutes, 10 seconds.
Disciples Encouraging Other Disciples

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Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

View all sermons by this speaker.

Sermon for Sunday, May 8, 2005
6th sermon in an 11 part series
"Disciples encouraging other disciples"
"Life-Changing Words"
(Hebrews 3:12-19)
Copyright 2005 G. Charles Sackett

Names have an interesting impact on us. You can hardly hear certain place names without eliciting some kind of a response, either out of your own experience or out of your memory of things that you've heard and talked about. If you're a Civil War fan you can hardly hear the name Vicksburg or Gettysburg without having certain kinds of images that come to mind. You can think of other place names that are like that. Omaha Beach, Hiroshima, China Beach, Saigon, Baghdad. They all carry some kind of a story about a nation. They carry something about the history of a people, us, in particular.

The Old Testament is full of those kinds of names, as well. You can hardly read Scripture without running across those rather interesting names. Here are two of them; Massah and Meribah. It may not be particularly pertinent to us. It might not elicit immediate response to us but it has richness in it from the history of Israel.

This was the place where Israel first began to genuinely grumble and complain about what God was doing in their lives. In the grand scheme of things God is in the process of trying to move his people out of bondage into freedom. That's been his plan from the very beginning; was to redeem humanity, to bring them back into a relationship with himself. He has worked through Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, and in every situation they find themselves turning themselves against God and ultimately end up in slavery in Egypt.

God calls on Moses to bring them out and they have those miraculous stories of crossing the Red Sea and beginning this process of moving from Egypt to Israel or what we call Israel today, to the "Promise Land" and somewhere along the way they became just a little discouraged at the way things were turning out. The story is actually in the book of Numbers. If you want to have a reference point for it, it's Numbers 20. We're not going to read the whole thing, but I just want to make a quick survey of this particular text before we come to our primary text over in the book of Hebrews.

Numbers 20:2 Now there was no water for the community, and the people gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron. They quarreled with Moses and said, "If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before the Lord! Why did you bring the Lord's community into this desert, that we and our livestock should die here? Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!"

Moan and grumble and complain. Numbers 20:12 but the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, "Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them."

This is the second time they've grumbled about water. The first time Moses simply spoke to the rock and the water came gushing forth. They apparently had forgotten that lesson. Moses, in his aggravation, this time, takes his staff and strikes the rock in disobedience to God. He still gets the water but in this history lesson that we're going to see in Hebrews 3, Massah and Meribah become two places of grumbling and complaining, which the Lord looks back on with great disdain. The issue it strikes to me is when things don't turn out as we expect, we are, in fact, tempted to grumble and complain. Israel had been given freedom from slavery. They no longer had to make bricks for a wicked pharaoh. They actually were moving from slavery to freedom and yet it wasn't turning out quite the way they anticipated. That there were no grape vines and pomegranates. It was not an oasis. It was a desert and so they began to wonder if God knew what he was doing and began to grumble and complain.

It's a pretty common temptation isn't it? Particularly for those of you who have begun a journey toward Christ or who have already made a decision to follow Christ and you have this kind of expectation that if you are really as serious about your Christian life, if you really turn yourself in the direction of the Lord, if you try to do the things that are right, then your life ought to be full of grapevines and pomegranates. It should not be full of deserts. It ought to be full of oases. And sometimes, quite honestly, it doesn't turn out that way. In fact, for many people, after they become Christians, life actually feels harder, more difficult. And the temptation is to grumble and complain because we didn't get what we expected.

Now normally if you were up here with me you would see that I have this little piece of paper here to remind me of some things that I want to say and over here in the right hand column I would normally write the names of people down who represent what I'm talking about so that I can remember to say something about them. And on the right side of the paper today there's this set of question marks. It's not that I don't know people who have fallen into that category of getting discouraged because their Christian experience wasn't everything that they thought it was supposed to be. It's that. . . .quite honestly I can't remember their names. I don't think it's just because I have a bad memory, though I do. I think it's because the names that I remember are the people for whom life didn't turn out the way they expected it, but they stuck it out anyway. Now those I have plenty of. Do you want to talk about Dawn or Carl or I could name a whole list of people who gave their lives to Christ whose lives looked really hard and harsh and yet, they never gave up. They never turned back. They never turned around. They kept moving in the right. . . .they didn't stop in Massah and Meribah to complain.

Those people have left an impression on my life that I will never forget. The other people, as sad as it may seem to you, have somehow disappeared from my memory bank.

See, the danger that is raised in the text in Hebrews 3, is the danger of unbelief, the danger of disobedience, the danger of thinking that God is supposed to do things your way and when he doesn't, believing that you are more right than he is.

Look at Hebrews 3 with me. Hebrews 3 We've been spending our time talking about words and the word that we're talking about today is the word provocative. That's because the old King James uses the word "provoke" in this text. I've always been intrigued by that idea of words that "provoke" us. Usually that sounds negative, but it isn't always.

Hebrews 3:7 . . . .as the Holy Spirit says:

"Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert, where your fathers tested and tried me and for forty years saw what I did.

That is why I was angry with that generation, and I said, 'Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.'

So I declared on oath in my anger, 'They shall never enter my rest.'"

See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one (there's the word provoke, by the way),( But provoke one another). 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. As has just been said: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion."

Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert? And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.

There are some words that surfaced for me in that text, at least that are "provoked" by me in this text. One of them is "persistence". Just this very nature of staying with things. We have Mother's Day because of persistence.

Back in 1907 Ana Jarvis decided that mothers ought to be honored and she went on a personal crusade to make sure there was such a thing as Mother's Day and in 1914 Woodrow Wilson finally signed a declaration that this particular day every year in our country, we would stop and honor our mothers. It only took her seven years to get that job done. Not bad for working with the American government.

Well I'm going to take a pause here for just a second and appreciate some things about mothers since Woodrow Wilson said we had to. These are elementary school children's answers to the question, Why did God make moms?

Why did God make Mothers?

* She's the only one who knows where the scotch tape is.

* Mostly to clean the house.

How did God make Mothers?

* God made mom just like he made me. He just used bigger parts.

Why did God give you your mother and not some other mom?

* We're related!

Or this one. . . . .

* God knew she likes me a lot more than other peoples' moms like me.

What kind of a little girl was your mom?

* I don't know, I wasn't there! But my guess is, she was pretty bossy.

Another child said this,

* They say she used to be nice.

What did mom need to know about dad before she married him?

* His last name

and this,

Does he make at least $800 a year?

Did he say no to drugs and yes to chores?

Why did your mom marry your dad?

* My dad makes the best spaghetti in the world and my mom eats a lot.

Or this answer. . . .

* She got too old to do anything else with him.

Who's the boss at your house?

* Mom doesn't want to be boss but she has to because dad's such a "goof ball".

What's the difference between mom's and dad's?

* Moms work at work and work at home and dads just go to work at work.

Or this one. . . .

* Moms know how to talk to teachers without scaring them.

What would it take to make your mom perfect?

* Oh, on the inside she's already perfect. Outside I think some kind of plastic surgery.

Or this answer. . .

* diet, you know her hair. . . . .I'd dye it, maybe blue.

If you could change one thing about your mom what would it be?

* She has this weird thing about keeping my room clean. I'd get rid of that

or . . . .