But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. Hebrews 3:13 (ESV)
During their missionary journeys, Paul and Barnabas visited a place called Paphos. While there they encountered a magician, a Jewish false prophet by the name of Bar-Jesus, also known as Elymas. Elymas opposed Paul and Barnabas as they shared the word of God with Sergius Paulus a government official of Paphos. Paul looked intently at Elymas and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? (Acts 13:4-13)
Maybe in Paul’s rebuke we find a usable definition for the deceitfulness of sin. Notice that Paul told Elymas that he is “full of all deceit.” He then describes the magician’s work as “making crooked the straight paths of the Lord.” Sin allures us from the straight paths of God. It deceives us into believing that our indulgence will give instant gratification. And sin lies to us when it offers a pleasure that is incomparable with the treasure God has offered us in his son, Jesus Christ.
Elymas no doubt was influenced by none other than his father. Paul called him a “son of the devil.” Satan is the ultimate deceiver of the world (Revelation 12:9). He introduced sin into the world by convincing Adam and Eve that God’s word was suspect and offered them a better way than God had commanded. As it did to Adam and Eve, the deceitfulness of sin seeks to harden us to the truth of God’s word; “Did God actually say?” (Genesis 3:1)
Sin misrepresents the truth. In his commentary on Hebrews, Richard D. Phillips writes, “Sin advertises pleasure but delivers pain.” That is the great deception of the great deceiver. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.(2 Corinthians 11:14 ESV) Sin looks pleasing to the eye and offers temporary satisfaction, but its way is the way to eternal death (Romans 6:23).
The problem we face is that our hearts are bent toward being deceived. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9 ESV) The apostle Paul told the Ephesian church that our human nature is “corrupt through deceitful desires.” This “corruptness through deceitful desires” was part of our old nature before faith in Christ. Yet, even though we are a new creation in Christ, we still find in ourselves a tendency to yield to deceitful desires (Romans 7:21-23).
Since we have this bent to fall for sin’s deceptions, the writer of Hebrews commands us to exhort, to come along side and call one another out, daily. We need Christian fellowship, brothers and sisters in Christ who will hold us accountable to the truths of God’s word, urge us to avoid being hardened (rendered stubborn) by the deceitfulness of sin, and encourage us to hold our original confidence in Christ firm to the end. We cannot go it alone; we are not meant to. God has given us each other and more importantly his word. His word is truth and obedience to it will guard us against the deceitfulness of sin.
Have you been hardened by the deceitfulness of sin? Do you have Christian friends to encourage you to stand firm in faith?
Scriptures for meditation: