A Heavenly Calling (5)
“Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.”
Hebrews 3:9, quoting Psalm 95:10
OK, but how can we tell if, in all our efforts to be faithful, we’re really on the path of that heavenly calling? Might we not be simply deceiving ourselves? In fact, I suspect that a good many people who think they’ve begun to share in that heavenly calling have never really considered Jesus or started being faithful to God through Him at all.
They are indeed deceiving themselves, if this is the case in their lives. So is there some place we can look, some reliable measure we can observe that will indicate whether or not we’re being truly faithful in this heavenly calling?
There is: Look to your heart. In our passage the writer contrasts people with two different hearts – two very different sets of attitudes and affections. We’ve already begun to look at one of these. Those who are sharing in the heavenly calling are full of confidence and exuberant in boasting about the Lord. They demonstrate an eagerness in seeking the Lord, and they rejoice in the hope of glory He gives them. They are firm in their resolve and persistent in their path. Those who have truly responded to the call from God by trusting in Jesus Christ have pliable hearts. They are being shape and molded by God from within and are acquiring new affections that create in them a longing to please God and a growing desire to know and share in His ways.
On the other hand our writer mentions those whose hearts are “hard.” He is careful to note that these people were traveling along the same path with those who had good hearts and right attitudes. But they were complainers. They grumbled about everything. They didn’t want to do the hard work of learning God’s ways; they just wanted God to do for them whatever they needed. Our writer says these people had evil and unbelieving hearts. All that grumbling and grousing revealed that they had never begun to share in the heavenly calling; they were too busy pursuing whatever seemed best for them.
Our writer says that God was “provoked” with those who had hard, complaining hearts, and who did not seek to know Him or His works as He had revealed them. These people, while still being among the people of Israel, sinned against God, and He allowed them to come to their deaths in the wilderness, without ever realizing the precious and very great promises of God in the land of Canaan. The writer, quoting Psalm 95, urgently pleads with his readers to guard against the attitude of sin, unbelief, self-serving, and rebellion that characterized those who died in the wilderness.
We are not on the path that pleases God, and we have not begun to share in His heavenly calling if our attitudes reveal that we’re really more interested in ourselves and what we can get for ourselves than in God and His promises, purposes, and will. Those whose attitudes are not what they should be tend to justify themselves. They have plenty of good reasons why they’re always complaining or talking about themselves. Those who have begun to share in God’s heavenly calling, yet who find themselves from time to time slipping back into those old attitudes and ways, recognize their error at once and repent of it immediately. They keep a close watch on their hearts (v. 12) and listen as the Spirit of God searches their attitudes and thoughts to expose and eliminate anything that should not be there (Ps. 139:23, 24).
Look to your heart. Consider the kinds of attitudes you display throughout the day. Are you all about yourself and your needs? Or are you all about the Lord, confident in Him, boasting about His goodness, and rejoicing in the hope of glory in which you stand? Your heart will tell you whether you have truly begun to share in the heavenly calling of God.
Suggest some ways to monitor your attitudes and the condition of your heart throughout the day. Run these by some Christian friends for their response. Then, find a friend who’ll join you in practicing these disciplines for a few weeks, to see how it goes. Meet regularly together to share and pray.
This week’s series, A Heavenly Calling, is available in a free downloadable format, suitable for group study.
For more insight to this heavenly calling, order the book, The Radical Disciple, by John Stott, from our online store. Or read the article, “Manufacturing Converts or Making Disciples?” by Trudy Chun.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture references are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.