Today I would like to ask you: “Are you really a family member?” My sharing will be based on this question. I will speak strictly with you because I love you and I care about your soul. I will begin by reading Hebrews chapter 3 from the World English Bible translation which I only have on my phone. Open your heart to the Bible, the Holy Word of God and to the Holy Spirit.
‘Therefore, holy brothers, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Jesus; who was faithful to him who appointed him, as also was Moses in all his house. For he has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who built the house has more honor than the house. For every house is built by someone; but he who built all things is God. Moses indeed was faithful in all his house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were afterward to be spoken, but Christ is faithful as a Son over his house; whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the glorying of our hope firm to the end. Therefore, even as the Holy Spirit says, “Today if you will hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts, as in the rebellion, like as in the day of the trial in the wilderness, where your fathers tested me by proving me, and saw my works for forty years. Therefore I was displeased with that generation, and said, ‘They always err in their heart, but they didn’t know my ways;’ as I swore in my wrath, ‘They will not enter into my rest.'” Beware, brothers, lest perhaps there be in any one of you an evil heart of unbelief, in falling away from the living God; but exhort one another day by day, so long as it is 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 confidence firm to the end: while it is said, “Today if you will hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts, as in the rebellion.” For who, when they heard, rebelled? No, didn’t all those who came out of Egypt by Moses? With whom was he displeased forty years? Wasn’t it with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? To whom did he swear that they wouldn’t enter into his rest, but to those who were disobedient? We see that they were not able to enter in because of unbelief’ (Hebrews 3:1-19).
All of the books of the Bible were written in Asia. So also this letter to the Hebrews, which was written to Asians. Asians understand the value and importance of family. It is ingrained in them from childhood and they see it in their daily interactions. When we look specifically at the Nagas, we can see that they deeply value family ties. In this chapter from Hebrews we also see the concept of family. Let us read again from the second verse to the sixth verse:
“who [Jesus] was faithful to him who appointed him, as also was Moses in all his house. For he has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who built the house has more honor than the house. For every house is built by someone; but he who built all things is God. Moses indeed was faithful in all his house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were afterward to be spoken, but Christ is faithful as a Son over his house; whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the glorying of our hope firm to the end” (Hebrews 3:2-6).
2. Only once we have received the Holy Spirit, we will receive power to fulfil the great commission. I quote Acts 1:8: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you. You will be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth.” So first obedience is necessary, then the Holy Spirit is given, and then we receive power to fulfil the great commission. However, also notice the latter part of this verse: “You will be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth.” Notice it starts from the local church. It starts from the church in Jerusalem. It starts from the church in Medziphema. It starts from your local church; it starts from Medziphema Town Ao Baptist Church. Therefore, make sure that you and those around you in this church are truly holy, obedient Christians that are fully allegiant; fully loyal to Christ the Lord; as it is written in the thirteenth and fourteenth verses of our chapter of Hebrews: ‘but exhort one another day by day, so long as it is 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 confidence [or our obedient loyalty and allegiance to Christ] firm to the end’ (Hebrews 3:13-14). Being true Christians; being truly holy, obedient Christians that are fully loyal and allegiant to Christ is the opposite of having become “hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (verse 13). And it is the opposite of what the following verses describe:
‘while it is said, “Today if you will hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts, as in the rebellion.” For who, when they heard, rebelled? No, didn’t all those who came out of Egypt by Moses? With whom was he displeased forty years? Wasn’t it with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? To whom did he swear that they wouldn’t enter into his rest, but to those who were disobedient? We see that they were not able to enter in because of unbelief’ (Hebrews 3:15-19).
In these verses we see hardened hearts due to rebellion (verse 15), rebelling against the instruction of the Lord (verse 16), sinning (verse 17), disobedience (verse 18), and disloyalty or faithlessness (verse 19). So “hardened by the deceitfulness of sin”, hardened hearts due to rebellion, rebelling against the instruction of the Lord, sinning, disobedience, disloyalty and faithlessness are traits or characteristics of those that do not truly belong to Christ, those that are not true Christians. They are not true, holy, obedient, allegiant, loyal Christians but they are fake “Christians”!
If you belong or you might belong to that category of sinners and rebels, I want to sincerely ask you, urge you, and even plead with you for your own good to not deceive yourself: “Don’t be deceived. God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption. But he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life” (Galatians 6:7-8).
“You know that he was revealed to take away our sins, and in him is no sin. Whoever remains in him doesn’t sin. Whoever sins hasn’t seen him, neither knows him. Little children, let no one lead you astray. He who does righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. To this end the Son of God was revealed, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whoever is born of God doesn’t commit sin, because his seed remains in him; and he can’t sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are revealed, and the children of the devil. Whoever doesn’t do righteousness is not of God, neither is he who doesn’t love his brother” (1 John 3:5-10).
We further learn from the Bible that sin only gives pleasure for a season (Hebrews 11:25) and that the way of sin seems right but that it leads to death (Proverbs 14:12, 16:15), that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23) in that it was fruitless and that we are now only ashamed of the things we have done (Romans 6:21). So sin brings shame; it makes you deeply ashamed. And you never get away with it. “Be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23).
Therefore, don’t be a fool! Don’t cover up your sinfulness with religiosity and lies, with saying your prayers, going to church and appearing to be a Christian and a good husband or wife or a good son or daughter while you are actually sinning in darkness. God is watching you; your conscience condemns you and this double life afflicts and tortures you. Rather, repent of all your sins and forsake them all. If one has truly repented, having forsaken all sins, he or she is accepted back into the family. The most clear example is the story of the prodigal son [which can be found in Luke 15:11-32] who was accepted back into the family and who was fully restored.
Yes! You can be fully healed of your sins! James 5:16 says: “Confess your offenses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The insistent prayer of a righteous person is powerfully effective.”
It is also written: “This is the end of the matter. All has been heard. Fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every work into judgment, with every hidden thing, whether it is good, or whether it is evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).
Let this not be said of this church under our dearly beloved pastor on judgment day that they fell away due to secret sins or rebellion. Don’t fall away by hardening your heart and rebelling but rather repent. To those that sincerely repented, Christ said: “Neither do I condem you. Go your way. From now on, sin no more” (John 8:11). “Behold, you are made well. Sin no more, so that nothing worse happens to you” (John 5:14b). And: “Your sins are forgiven (…) Your faith [or allegiance or loyalty to] has saved you. Go in peace” (Luke 7:48b-50b). But if one proves to not have been sincere in repenting and rejoining Christ’s holy family, he or she will be kicked out again, as we had already quoted from the Bible that “God will not be mocked”, “You will reap what you have sown” and “be sure your sin will find you out” and so forth. This should be obvious from your consciences that haunt you and condemn you as long as you remain in sin and do not sincerely repent.
Let it not be said that this church fell away due to secret sins or rebellion. Let it rather be said of MTABC that they were loyal to Christ, having fulfilled the great commission. Are you fully loyal and fully obedient to Christ?
So, to summarize my sermon and as a means of sincerely challenging you: Ask yourself whether you are truly a family member. As 2 Corinthians 13:5 reads: “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” (NIV). If you are sinning or if you have sinned, you should repent and forsake your sins and become obedient and allegiant to Christ again. Then the Holy Spirit will be given to you again and then you can go and spread the Gospel. This starts from the local church so make sure that you and all those in this church are and remain holy, obedient, loyal Christians. The unrepentant hypocrites Christ will judge severely on the day of judgment. “Then I will tell them, I never knew you. Depart from me, you who work iniquity” (Matthew 7:23). “Every tree that doesn’t grow good fruit is cut down, and thrown into the fire” (Matthew 7:19). “I wrote to you in my letter to have no company with sexual sinners; yet not at all meaning with the sexual sinners of this world, or with the covetous and extortioners, or with idolaters; for then you would have to leave the world. But as it is, I wrote to you not to associate with anyone who is called a brother who is a sexual sinner, or covetous, or an idolater, or a slanderer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner. Don’t even eat with such a person” (1 Corinthians 5:9-11). The International Standard Version (ISV) puts it even more clearer: “But now I am writing you to stop associating with with any so-called brother if he is sexually immoral, greedy, an idolater, a slanderer, a drunk, or a robber. You must even stop eating with someone like that” (1 Corinthians 5:11, ISV). “Or don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t be deceived. Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor male prostitutes, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor slanderers, nor extortioners, will inherit the Kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). “But for the cowardly, unbelieving, sinners, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their part is in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8). “He will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb” (Revelation 14:10b). The terrible wrath of the Lamb will fall on them. They will burn and suffer in the lake of fire in the presence of Christ that Lamb whom they actually despised so much by all their sinning and rebellion and towards whom they had been such big hypocrites.
Today is the day of salvation, also for hypocritical and sinning “Christians”. Do not harden your hearts but repent today leaving all your sins behind and live a new, holy life with a clean conscience with no regrets as you go and sin no more. Then the Holy Spirit can use you to spread the Gospel so that others can also experience this inner peace of being a true Christian and then I can confidently call you my brother or sister. Are you my brother or sister? Are you really a family member? Are you? Thoroughly examine and test yourself.
Draft version of a sermon preached in Medziphema Town Ao Baptist Church in Medziphema Town, Dimapur, Nagaland, India on the 15th of March 2020. All verses were taken from the World English Bible, unless indicated otherwise.
* The Committee on Bible Translation (CBT), NIV Thinline Bible, Large Print (Grand, Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), 1055, ftn. h.