The word of God reveals our hearts, leaving us naked and exposed before God. When God’s word comes to us, we are forced to respond, and how we respond reveals what is in our hearts.
First, we respond by our actions, which reveal either faith or unbelief in God’s word. Second, on the Last Day we will be called to give a word of response to God’s word, a word about the condition of our own hearts. On that day—as already now—it will be pointless to make our word deviate from God’s word, for the thoughts and intentions of our hearts are open before God.
Thus God’s word exposes us, leaving us defenseless. It demands faith, and it demands a word in response—a word that matches God’s word.
These sobering thoughts come from Hebrews 4:12-13:
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (ESV)
This passage was the central text in a sermon I recently preached on the danger of secret sin. I am generally more of a teacher than a preacher, but this was preaching. It was definitely more of a message of warning than I have ever shared before. I felt God’s grace as I shared. You can download the sermon or listen to it here:
Here is a summary of what I shared:
- God tested Israel in the wilderness, between Egypt and the Promised Land of rest, revealing what was in their hearts. (Ex. 17:1-7; Num. 13-14; Deut. 8:2; 31:20-21; etc.)
- God spoke to Israel “today” in the Promised Land, testing whether they would believe and enter eternal rest. (Ps. 95)
- God is also speaking to us “today” in the wilderness, between our initial salvation and our eternal rest, testing our hearts. (Heb. 3:5–4:13; etc.)
- God’s knows every secret of our hearts. (Many Scriptures, including Lk 8:17.)
- “Are You in the Dangerous Time In Between?” —Tim Challies.
- What should you do if you have hidden sin? Confess it, own it, repent of it, forsake it, replace evil desires with good desires, rely on divine help, seek human help. (Plead for the gift of repentance, which will not always be possible: Heb 6:4-8; 12:17. “Six Signs of Genuine Repentance”—Bryce Klabunde.)
- Faithful response to God’s word is a community effort. We must exhort each other and sometimes even act urgently to “remove the evil from our midst.” (Heb. 3:12-13; 12:15; Deut. 29:18; 13:1-18; 1 Cor. 5; etc.)
- “The Damning Devastation of a Single Coddled Sin”—Tim Challies.
- Final warning from Hebrews—from the passage that is set in literary parallel to the sermon’s main text (Heb. 4:11-13):
For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Heb. 10:26-31 ESV)
- Comfort: Your love for God is also “naked and exposed” before him, and he will not overlook it. (Heb. 6:9-12)
Here was the final exhortation we heard, summarizing God’s word to us:
Brothers and sisters! God has rescued you from Egypt! He is leading you to the Promised Land of eternal rest! But you are in danger of missing that rest! Today God is speaking to you! Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts!
God is speaking to you, and his word will reveal the secret thoughts and intentions of your heart! There is no hiding from God! You lie naked and helplessly exposed before him! “Nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light.”
Confess your sin to God! Own it! Repent of it! Forsake it! Replace your evil desires with good desires! Rely on divine help to live a holy life! Seek the help of your brothers and sisters!
Do not let your brothers and sisters coddle secret sins! Urge them to repentance! Don’t play around with fire that could burn the whole community! Don’t ignore any bitter root that will spring up and defile many! Purge the evil from your midst!
Determine today that you will no longer coddle a single persistent, deliberate, knowing sin! It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God!
May the God who knows our hearts turn our hearts anew to him in faith and obedience each day.
And may we help each other, for faithfulness is a community effort! What do you have to share that will help the rest of us live with pure hearts before God? Share your thoughts in the comments below. Thank you!