To Believe Or Not To Believe

Hebrews  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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When presented with the life-saving truth of the Gospel, it is essential that one make a wholehearted choice to believe.

To be or not to be, that is the question. Even if you don’t know much about Shakespeare, that is probably the most quoted line in the writings of Shakespeare. It is taken from Hamlet. This is not to be confused with the more modern day writings which feature Winnie the Pooh and his friend, Piglet.
So much for humor. Actually, I don’t think that is really the question that ought to be asked. I believe THE question that determines all of one’s life is: To believe or not to believe. That, my friends, is the real question that all of us must answer.
It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Sometimes a story is worth more than a thousand lectures. At least a majority of students would probably feel that way. That is actually what the writer of Hebrews is doing in today’s passage. He is quoting from Psalm 95, where David is recounting a very problematic time during Israel’s time under Moses. The issue at hand was how Israel kept disobeying God and seemed bent on biting the proverbial hand that was feeding, guiding, and protecting them.
Sadly, just believing facts as true, or even seeing the awesome deeds of God, does not mean that a person is willing to commit themselves completely to the Lord. Sometimes that choice to not believe comes from an unwillingness to turn our backs to sin. Sometimes, it is a result of being afraid of what others might think, say, or do to us.
As we look into today’s passage, we’ll see a progressive regression, if you will, when making the wrong choice of believing or not believing.
When presented with the life-saving truth of the Gospel, it is essential that one make a wholehearted choice to believe.

The Danger of Ignoring God - 3.7-11

In Kansas, if the radio or TV was on and the weather was looking to be stormy, you would often hear a high pitched beeping sound or a shrill, squawking sound that was a warning to pay attention for upcoming weather information. At that point, most would turn up the audio and listen carefully to what the weather person was saying. However, a lot of times, the warning sounds were ignored by many, because the sky didn’t really look ominous enough to warrant any real concern.
Let’s look at this first section.
Hebrews 3:7–11 NASB95
Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says, Today if you hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as when they provoked Me, As in the day of trial in the wilderness, Where your fathers tried Me by testing Me, And saw My works for forty years. Therefore I was angry with this generation, And said, ‘They always go astray in their heart, And they did not know My ways’; As I swore in My wrath, They shall not enter My rest.’ ”
I love how clearly the writer states that this Psalm which is being quoted, even though written by David, was actually authored by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is obviously God, so there is a need to give heed to what was said. This warning is repeated at least four times in the book of Hebrews: Today if you hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts. Simply put, we need to react now. We’re not promised preparation time of a full 24-hour day, or tomorrow, or next week. After high school may never come your way. After you retire from your job may be a pipe dream. When you finally get married may be nothing more than a dream in your imagination. Today means now. Don’t put it off.
Hebrews: The MacArthur New Testament Commentary Proof of the Bible’s Inspiration

In his earlier ministry D.L. Moody often would end his message with, “Go home and think about what I’ve said.” One night in Chicago he told the people to do this and to come back the next night ready to make a decision. That night the Chicago fire broke out, and some who had been in his congregation died. That was the last time he told anyone to think over the claims of Christ and make a decision later. No one knows if he will have a tomorrow in which to decide. Today signifies the present time of grace. Men today, as in the time of Moody and in the time of Hebrews and in the time of David and in the time of Moses, never know how long that time of grace for them will be.

Every time a person chooses to ignore God, to ignore the call to repent and be saved, it becomes easier and easier to continue to ignore God. This is easily seen with what the Bible refers to as when a person harden[s] [their] hearts. We remember how Pharoah hardened his heart so many times that there ended up being no more day for him and the the firstborn children.
We observed the Israelites as they were on their journey to the promised land. Things would start out wonderfully, then the people would ignore God’s commands and want to do things their own way. In spite of the mind-blowing evidence of God’s presence, protection, and provision, they chose to ignore God. Folks, the only way this can happen is if a people will not commit themselves 100% to God and trust Him implicitly in every area of life.
Even today, there are people who continually test God, as described in verse 8. Rather than be satisfied with the evidence which God has already revealed, they suggest that they will follow God if He does one more thing to prove Himself. That is just a mechanism of unbelief. It is a foolish phrase to choose to not believe. The writer of Hebrews is pleading with his readers to not be like the Israelites. There will come a time when there is no more today.
What did ignoring God in unbelief end up doing? It caused God to become angry. The Greek rendering in the Septuagint could easily be read as God loathed them. My friends, those of you who are on the fence, those who are not quite ready to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, today may be over quicker than you realize. Don’t be like the Israelites who never saw the promised land because of their unbelief and chose to ignore God.

The Danger of Unbelief - 3.12-14

Let’s go back to the weather warning that was being broadcast earlier. These warnings would be repeated quite often, depending upon the severity and approaching danger, especially if it was the development of a tornado. Suddenly, you hear that the weather people have just issued a warning that there is a tornado approaching and your house happens to be directly in its path. Well, you have seen multiple tornadoes over the years. They’ve even been relatively close by, but your home has never been directly in its path. So, you don’t really believe that it could happen to you. In fact, you’re figuring that the odds are in your favor that the tornado will miss or simply go back up into the sky. You don’t really believe there is a problem.
Let’s look at the next step in this downward spiral.
Hebrews 3:12–14 NASB95
Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will 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,
As we’ve already seen, unbelief is but a short slide over from ignoring God. One might be tempted to think that after all that God has done, after all the incredible things I’ve seen Him do in so many lives, surely I can go about my own ways and get around to God later in life. The author of this book continues to warn the readers to not be like Israel. Judgment did indeed come. The word for brethren in verse 12 does not have anything to do with saved individuals, as in holy brethren. It simply describes people who identify with a particular ethnicity. This is also important to know, since interpreting it incorrectly can lead to some false theology.
It has been asked as to what the greatest sin there is. Responses vary, but it seems that the best answer is the sin of unbelief. After all, everything else can be forgiven. But if a person chooses to not believe, then how can there be forgiveness? The phrase, falls away from the living God, uses the Greek word from which we get apostasy.
Sadly, just as we observe today, there is a lot of information about Jesus, but not always an invitation from the sinner for Jesus to save a person from their sins. There are many who profess Jesus, but sadly do not possess Jesus. Close only works in horseshoes, not in relation to heaven. To know about Jesus factually and from afar, yet to choose to not believe in having an intimate relationship with Jesus is not good enough. John MacArther states: Once you have heard the gospel and understood its claims, and then say no to Jesus Christ, you have fallen away. You have become apostate. To not believe in Jesus is the same as not believing in life itself.
So what can be done? Verse 13 is instruction for those who are believers. We need to come alongside those who have been ignoring and are caught up in unbelief. We need to be right alongside them in pleading with them to not harden their hearts. We need to encourage them to accept Jesus as their own personal Lord and Savior.
Why is this necessary? Because of the deceitfulness of sin. Remember that deceit is the picture of a mask covering what is truly there and portraying something that is not necessarily the case; such as in the theater. A person who has become hardened does not really believe that they are hardened. They may think of themselves as enlightened, or more loving, or more accepting. Little do they understand the deceitfulness of sin.
Verse 14 is more evidence of a true believer; not because we hold fast; but we hold fast as proof that we belong to Jesus Christ. Warren Wiersbe states: We are not saved by holding to our confession. The fact that we hold to our confession is proof that we are God’s true children. Whether we like it or want to say it out loud, it seems painfully clear from the entirety of the Bible that a person who supposedly walks away from God, never had a true saving relationship with Him. In fact, one of the clearest references to clarify this is found in 1 John 2.19.
1 John 2:19 NASB95
They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.
But what is really so bad about not believing?

The Danger of Disobedience - 3.15-19

Let’s get back to Kansas and the stormy weather. The weather warnings are practically screaming to take shelter. This is an F-5 tornado and is leaving a path of destruction in its path. You heard the first warnings, but chose to ignore them. The warnings continued and you thought you knew better; after all, you can’t believe everything you hear. Everybody is telling you to get into the basement and save yourself, but you think you’re going to stay up on the main level and ride this one out. Then the tornado hits; there is not going to be another chance for you. With the best information available, repeated multiple time, all kinds of people trying to get you to pay attention and believe what they were saying; yet you chose to not believe. That did not turn out the way you thought it would.
That is probably the same conclusion the Israelites had in the wilderness.
Hebrews 3:15–19 NASB95
while it is said, Today if you hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts, as when they provoked Me.” For who provoked Him when they had heard? Indeed, did not all those who came out of Egypt led by Moses? And with whom was He angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief.
This section presents what we might say is the final nail in the coffin. Unbelief begins with ignoring God, then slides right into outright unbelief. At this point, unbelief goes into blatant disobedience.
Another plea is given by the writer of Hebrews to the readers who were not saved; that they would immediately turn to the Lord. He reminds them of the fate of those who were brought out of Egypt and how their unbelief became disobedience, which resulted in death and no future with the Lord.


It has been said by many that to believe in God requires a suspension of rational thought and a willingness to ignore supposed reality. However, there is not a single person on this planet that does not practice faith to some degree. When we get into a car, we practice faith that everything will work according to design and purpose. When we buy groceries, we practice faith by believing that the food is what we need and has not been intentionally poisoned by someone wanting us out of the picture. When I go to bed at night, I have faith that the floor will hold up and not sending me crashing down to the next level. Why, then, would anyone not be willing to put their faith and belief in God, Who made all that there is and keeps it going?
Sadly, choosing to not believe, is to choose death. Choosing to believe, however, is to choose life everlasting.
When presented with the life-saving truth of the Gospel, it is essential that one make a wholehearted choice to believe.
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