There’s a riveting scene in the movie, The Gladiator, in which Maximus and his cohorts are thrown into a battle during which they are sure to die. They are armed only with swords and shields and the “Carthiginians” are armed with chariots, horses, spears, and crossbows. Maximus, having previously been a General in the Roman army, has a plan. And he says something to the effect of, “We have a better chance of surviving if we work together.” Spoiler alert. They win.
Not only is this a riveting scene, but it’s also a solid illustration for the church. Now, as all analogies do, this one breaks down, especially in the fact that we are not talking about “chance” of victory. Christ is our Victor, and the outcome of the war is already decided. And the church victorious will be the church at rest.
However, Christ has commanded that our victory be won through our perseverance, together, as brothers and sisters in Christ, fellow soldiers. Here’s an example.
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 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 3:12-13
Here’s the danger for us: not gladiators on chariots, but our own hearts, their propensity toward evil, unbelief, and falling away from God. The danger of being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. And isn’t sin deceitful indeed? Haven’t we all experienced a sin in our lives about which we were originally grieved, but eventually, it became easier and easier to do? Did we not allow our consciences to be seared, our hearts to be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin? It’s a universal problem for Christians who have not yet been glorified.
So, that’s the threat. But there’s also a remedy. The remedy that the Holy Spirit through the author of Hebrews provides is our exhorting one another every day. To exhort someone is to urge them strongly to action. In our case, it’s to encourage each other to obedience to the Lord and to a greater satisfaction than sin could ever provide. And our mutual exhortation is the means through which God provides us victory over sin, over hardness, over unbelief and evil. We need each other.
So, may we exhort one another every day as long as it is called “today”.