Hebrews 3:12-13 “Take heed, 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 To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”
To depart from something or someone is to walk away from it. Nobody ever departs on accident, but they always depart on purpose. When I take a departing flight to go to another destination, I am the one who chooses to get on that airplane to go to the destination that the plane is headed towards. If I don't want to go to that destination, I would be wise not to get onto the plane.
Likewise, nobody ever departs from the living God by accident. After being around the ministry for over five decades, the actions that lead to someone departing from God always seem to be the same. Nobody ever says at the beginning of joining a church or getting saved that they want to depart from God and His way of life. A person who gets saved likely wants to serve the LORD for the rest of their life. A person who joins a church initially desires to stay in that church for a lifetime. However, just like Israel of old, the pathway to departing from the living God to a life of worldliness and sin is a pathway that has too often been trodden because people don't know where it starts. Let me show you how it starts so that you can avoid it.
First, departing from the living God always starts in the heart. The “evil heart of unbelief” is a heart issue. You must guard your heart. It never fails that the withdrawing from the church or the LORD’s ways starts in the heart. A heart that used to be on fire for the LORD grows cold and critical before it ever gets to the point of departure from the LORD’s ways. You have to guard your heart from anything or anyone who would pull it away from the passion you initially had for the LORD.
Second, you must guard your heart from unbelief. It never fails that every person who eventually leaves started becoming critical of the old paths and the preacher. This is a result of unbelief. Unbelief causes the believer to see everything that the church and pastor are doing in a negative way, and church and pastor that they once used to embrace and likely went to because of how that church and pastor served the LORD. Unbelief is a great sin that always leads to a cold and critical heart. You may not think that you will ever leave God and His ways, but you are on the pathway when your heart has become distant, cold and critical about what you once used to love.
Third, unbelief always leads to a hardened heart. What once used to move you now has no impact on your heart. You are in a dangerous area when your heart is so hardened that nothing moves you anymore. When the preaching no longer speaks to you, and when God’s Word no longer convicts you, you must beware because the next step is a step you don't want to take.
Fourth, a hardened heart always leads to sin. Many have thought that they would never fall in sin, but they didn't realize their hardened heart is what led to sin. I am always amazed how those who leave the church always embrace sin’s lifestyle to their destruction. My friend, if you don't want to end your life suffering from sin’s consequences, you must guard yourself from pulling back. You will never depart from God’s ways if you guard your heart from coldness.