Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:12-13).
While in Ethiopia years ago, I saw firsthand what can happen when a precious brother in Christ goes astray. A man who had walked with us, prayed with us, loved God with us, began seeking to prevent God’s purposes from coming to pass. This wonderful brother had defied his conscience, allowing personal pride, selfishness, and greed to weaken it, eventually becoming hard-hearted and harming the very people he once led.
Then who was once our trusted ministry partner led authorities to refuse us permission to hold an evangelistic crusade where hundreds were waiting to hear the gospel. He began to threaten physically the very people who once mentored him. He threatened to have us stoned. He even threatened to poison our food supply!
In this man’s life, this most likely started with personal pride. He wanted status with others that he did not have. He began to steal small amounts of money that was allocated for ministry. What was once a pure heart was slowly, ever so slowly, corrupted.
In 1 Timothy 1:19-20, Paul mentions Hymenaeus and Alexander who betrayed conscience and forsook God’s best. They began to rail against Paul and his apostolic authority: Cling to your faith in Christ, and keep your conscience clear. For some people have deliberately violated their consciences; as a result, their faith has been shipwrecked. Hymenaeus and Alexander are two examples. I threw them out and handed them over to Satan so they might learn not to blaspheme God.
In Acts 5 we read of Ananias and Sapphira who died because of their sin against the Holy Spirit: But there was a certain man named Ananias who, with his wife, Sapphira, sold some property. He brought part of the money to the apostles, claiming it was the full amount. With his wife’s consent, he kept the rest. Then Peter said, “Ananias, why have you let Satan fill your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself. The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God!” As soon as Ananias heard these words, he fell to the floor and died. Everyone who heard about it was terrified. Then some young men got up, wrapped him in a sheet, and took him out and buried him.
As you continue to read the text of Acts 5, Ananias’ wife Sapphira likewise suffered the dreadful fate of her husband. No doubt this episode was the results of a sin-hardened heart.
When we see a precious saint of God go astray, we may think that we are immune, and may wonder how this could happen. A wise believer will always remain aware that he or she could likewise harden his or her heart.
A conscience repeatedly violated opens a door in your life to the enemy and gradually shuts God out. It happens at a slow snail’s pace. In the end the heart is hardened to God and His people. And, the very end of a seared conscience is spiritual ruin.
It’s the little foxes that spoil the vines (Song of Solomon 2:15) A man with a vineyard has no problems with large animals eating the luscious fruit of the vine. It’s those pesky little animals like the sly old fox that ruins the fruit of his labor.
Keep your heart. Watch the small things that creep into life and are not dealt with. Expose every thought, every attitude and every action to the One who knows all and sees all. Keep short accounts with God. Remain in constant communion. Keep your conscience tender.
I fear for my brother who allowed himself to get into this state of utter rebellion. I pray for God’s mercy on his life. He, that being often reproved hardens his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy (Proverbs 29:1). It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:31).
Let us ever be aware of our human frailty, and our need to remain humble before God. Let’s ask for the Holy Spirit to deal with any hidden personal sin that may slowly erode conscience, and hinder us from obtaining the best that God has for us in this life.
May the Father’s hand remain upon us, as He the Divine Potter ever molds us into the likeness of our Savior Jesus Christ.