Take Care (Hebrews 3:12-13)
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. —Hebrews 3:12-13
Do you know how many times God’s word instructs God’s people to “take care”? I did a quick concordance search and found twenty one times that the phrase “take care” is used as an admonition, an exhortation, a command, or a warning for God’s people from God. I don’t know about you, but I remember when my mother used to say to us kids, “Don’t you make me repeat myself!” She expected immediate compliance with her instruction at that moment. You can imagine what diligent obedience God expects when He repeats Himself for our benefit.
We rely utterly on the grace of God to be and do all that pleases Him. Paul tells us that God works in us both to will and to do His good pleasure. However, we take nothing away from God when, in love and faith and humility, we obey what He tells us. So, when God says, “Take care,” it is to His glory and our joy that we pay attention and respond faithfully. God-dependent action is God glorifying action.
The author of Hebrews, inspired by the Holy Spirit, writes to the followers of Jesus and tells them to “take care,” to pay close attention and act carefully in regard to the ongoing condition of their souls. Let’s take a closer look at this admonition.
First, note that an unbelieving heart is an evil heart. Don’t miss the severity of the warning here. Unbelief denies God. Unbelief sets the unbeliever as god in his or her own world, for there is no other moral authority for them than themselves and their own self-interest. An unbelieving heart is more than mere tragedy. According to God an unbelieving heart is downright evil, it has the character of that which denies and opposes God (and we all know who personifies that heart condition, right?).
One who loves Jesus cannot sustain an unbelieving heart. An evil heart draws away from God but a believing heart draws near to God. So “take care,” pay attention to what’s happening in your heart. Are you drawing closer to God, trusting His instruction and promises, walking by faith in the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within you, taking God at his word and resisting doubt and temptation?
Second, be aware that the scope of our diligence in this matter includes all the believers around us. “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you…” God is concerned with all of us and requires that we also be concerned not only with the state and condition of our own heart, but of the spiritual well-being of our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are in this life of faith and holiness together. We are to “take care” for ourselves and to “take care” of others.
Third, in this same frame of mutual responsibility, we are to “exhort one another.” We are to tell one another the truth, to present the just and holy claims of God and call one another to faithful obedience daily. We are to be prepared and present in the lives of believers and draw their attention to God’s word everyday as a means, not of condemnation, but of encouragement and edification.
Fourth, we are to “take care” and “exhort” in this moment, without delay, “as long as it is called ‘today.'” Diligence in spiritual maturity and faithfulness is an issue for today. It is not some optional consideration to put off until tomorrow or some more seemingly convenient time. This is a “NOW” thing.
If someone poured a cup of hot coffee in your lap, how long would it take you to jump up and clean up? Would you put it off until you had a better handle on the situation? Would you wait until maybe there was no one looking and then “take care?” Of course you wouldn’t. You would instantly rise to do good for yourself. And if that cup of hot coffee went into the lap of someone you loved, you would just as instantly rise to their assistance.
The Spirit, through the author of Hebrews, just poured spiritual “hot coffee” in the lap of your heart. “Take care.” Do it now. “Exhort.” Do it now. “That none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”
One final observation: Sin and unbelief will tell you the coffee isn’t hot, that the burn can wait, that the danger does not exist, that tomorrow is soon enough. Like the proverbial frog who does not jump from the boiling water in time to save its life, sin hardens the heart in unbelief through lies, telling us we can safely ignore God when He graciously repeats Himself for our good.
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.